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127 Hours

Submitted by admin on November 18, 2010 – 2:04 pmNo Comment
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A long time ago I had the occasion to see a medical film. Medical films are a strange kind of voyeurism. This particular film was an operation on a baby that had been born imperfect.

I only bring up such a sub-genre because the experience of seeing 127 Hours, for some people, will be beyond ken. Danny Boyle, the director of everything from Trainspotting to Slumdog Millionaire, has fashioned a once in a lifetime tale out of real life and the ultimate in adventure.

It’s no secret that 127 Hours is based on the life of Aron Ralston, the dude who had to cut off his own arm after a freakish incident involving caves and boulders in the Canyonlands National Park in Utah in 2003.

Boyle takes us into the mindset of Ralston, first carefree and in full tilt rock climbing mode, and then trapped in a precarious situation that soon becomes a matter of life and death. Boyle’s sense of imagery moves fast and never feels confined even when Ralston’s trapped with his arm wedged between an immoveable wall and a rock. Having only a dull pocketknife, Ralston tries chipping away at the stone, but it only seems to secure the rock more firmly in place.

As hours turn into days Ralston’s mental state becomes fuzzy. He starts have waking dreams of everything from past loves, memories of his parents, and even a party he knows is going on in a nearby town that involves a huge Scooby Do figure as a landmark. Part of the wonderfulness of 127 Hours is how Boyle allows the aud to identify with Ralston and feel his sense of hopelessness.

James Franco portrays Ralston with such startling strength and energy that we’re immediately in his camp. Franco’s always an interesting actor but this role gives him a wide range of options, certainly as different as night and day from his other recent roles like Julia Roberts’ lover in Eat, Pray, Love or as the young Allen Ginsberg in Howl. When it comes time to perform the unthinkable you’re literally rooting for the guy. Here Boyle switches into several minutes of unmitigated gore. There’s not just the meat of the arm to hack through; there’s also two bones that must be broken plus a nerve that must be severed. When the nerve moment comes we hear an electric buzzing sound effect that’s like your mind being flung to an astral plane.

127 Hours is both riveting and life affirming, somehow managing to take one’s breath away while keeping collective eyes glued to the screen.

- Michael Bergeron

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