Thursday, February 17, 2011

127 Hours [ Movie Review ] *** 1/2

After winning big with Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours seemed to be the perfect film project for Danny Boyle to direct. Drastically different from his previous movies, this might just be a good challenge for his film making career. Director Danny Boyle not only rises to meet the challenge and it exemplify his talent in making films that are entaining and absorbing, even if the protagonist  is stuck in one place for the bulk of the movie.

127 Hours is based on Aron Ralston (James Franco)'s ordeal of getting his arm stuck with a boulder in an isolated canyon with not a single soul anywhere near him. His water supply was running out and there's no way of lifting the boulder. It's either he resign to his fate or do something so drastic that most people won't have the stomach for. Folks who are aware of this true life story would probably know how this movie would end. But the only way to have a better understanding of what Aron Ralston went through in that 127 hours, would be to watch this movie.

It started with a montage of Aron Ralston packing for a weekend trip and unknowingly left out some crucial items that foreboded the events to come. He gave his mom's call a miss and left on his trip. While trekking, he met up with two female trekkers and brought them to visit the big drop in one of the canyon. After which, he left them and went on his way.

Photo by Chuck Zlotnick
Things were fine and he was skillfully navigating through the canyon terrain when the "unexpected" happened. A supposedly unmovable boulder that he was holding on gave way and both of them fell into the depth of the canyon. He soon discovered that his right arm is stuck between the boulder and the canyon wall. There's no way to pull his arm out of the boulder and it would take more than one man to lift this boulder. There's no one around and he told nobody of his plan for the weekend.

The movie then went on to showcase the choices that Aron Ralston made to free himself from the predicament with the equipments he got with him. It covered how he exhausted the various options of dislodging his arm from the boulder. It also showed what he went through to survive when he was running out of water.

In order to make this movie more than just the survival manual of Aron Ralston, it examined his mental state at that time. He started to rethink about his life and how he treated his love ones in the past. Under the state of dehydration, he started to have hallucination and premonition.  In short, it's a thought provoking 94mins of his 127 hours ordeal.

Photo by Chuck Zlotnick
James Franco gave one Oscar worthy performance in this largely solitary act.  From the over confident laid back mountain climber to a helpless being who is coming to terms with the bad choices that he had made, James Franco performance made it reverting to watch. Especially the scene where his Aron Ralston started acting out as a TV host interviewing himself. The humour and painful self realization all hinged on James Franco's performance and he pretty much made it an unforgettable performance.

But while 127 Hours is entertaining, there's something about the treatment of the movie that holding me back from truly embracing it. The fancy editing, split screens and flashback montage of his thoughts were a double edge sword for me. On one hand, it kept things all jazz up and breezy to follow, leaving not a single moment of boredom. On the other hand, it does not really fully submerge the viewer into the agony of Aron Ralston predicament. All the fancy fimmaking devices used in this movie became ironically a distraction. The triumphant of the mind over matter didn't felt that triumphant and even though it was an extraordinary experience, it felt like it was missing something. Nevertheless, 127 Hours is a fine piece of work and it's likely to get better upon repeated viewing (as most Danny Boyle movies are).

Beyond the Movie

Potential Spoiler (scroll over to read)

According to imdb, it took 13 men, a winch and a hydraulic jack to raise the boulder that trapped Aron Ralston high enough to retrieve the arm. According to Wiki, the amputated arm was cremated and Aron Ralston scattered the ashes at the accident scene as he felt that there's where they belong.
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127 Hours received 6 nomination for the upcoming Academy Award and they are

Best Picture, Best Actor (James Franco), Best Adapted Screenplay (Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy), Best Original Score (A.R.Rahman), Best Original Score ( A. R . Rahman, Dido & Rollo Armstrong for "If I  Rise") and Best Film Editing (Jon Harris)

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