Friday, October 29, 2010

“127 Hours” – Movie Review

Last night in my movie class, we saw the suspense-drama “127 Hours”, starring James Franco and directed by Danny Boyle (“Slumdog Millionaire”). 


After an adventurous mountain climber ventures into a canyon, he gets stuck when a falling boulder wedges him against the wall of a chasm – but when he does what’s necessary to extricate himself, will he be able to make it home alive?
Aron Ralston (Franco) is a man with a great sense of adventure – and is the foolhardy risk-taking adrenaline junky that many young men on testosterone-overload also tend to be.  As a result, he decides not to tell anyone when he sets off to hike through Bluejohn Canyon in Utah one Saturday – a dangerous choice that he will eventually come to regret.  Too optimistic and egotistical to seriously believe that anything could go wrong during his little weekend jaunt, he sets out with a full backpack and high expectations based on his previous experiences.
Merely a few hours into his trip, he attempts to cross a narrow chasm by using a boulder at its opening as something of a bridge – but once the weight of his step causes both he and the boulder to plummet down the abyss, he suddenly finds his right arm painfully wedged against the side of the chasm by that very same boulder.  Unable to move either his arm or the boulder in order to free himself, Ralston attempts to survive on an ever-dwindling water supply and rapidly-depleting bagful of snacks until he can be discovered by someone and saved. 
Eventually, Ralston makes a few abortive attempts at earning his freedom, including the creation of a makeshift pulley assembled with some of his mountain climbing gear.  After being stuck for days and fearing his demise, Ralston finally realizes that the only way he will be able to get out is by amputating his right arm.  Searching through the contents of his backpack, he discovers a cheap set of utility knives and makes a go of the procedure – but even if he succeeds, will he be able to live long enough to return from the canyon alive?
This movie is based on the book “Between A Rock And A Hard Place”, authored by the film’s real life protagonist, Aron Ralston, who chronicled this story that actually happened to him a number of years ago.  From what we are given to understand in this movie, Ralston – both the character in the film and the real person – came away from this experience changed in more ways than merely physical.  While one woman in my class called this “a static road movie” (because the character does go on a “journey”, of sorts), I would characterize it more as a story about personal redemption since Ralston – as portrayed – appears as something of an arrogant, presumptuous, selfish, careless, reckless individual and undergoes a major character arc by the end of the film. 
Despite the terrific performance by Franco, I found this character flaw in the protagonist prevented me from really rooting for Ralston; basically, my reaction was simply that the guy got what he deserved, so I felt very little in the way of compassion for him, even though we see him gradually learn humility as his ordeal wears on.  Assuming you won’t experience the same obstacle I did, I’ll highly recommend this film based on the fact that it’s suspenseful and its story most unusual – not to mention compelling because you know it to be based on a true occurrence. 
A number of students in the class were greatly relieved by the fact that when Ralston performed his surgery, the director’s choice was not to linger too much on the details.  While a scene such as this one requires some blood to be shown, this is by no means a horror-exploitation movie, so it tastefully minimizes the amount of gore yet doesn’t manage to sanitize the scene so much that it makes the viewer feel as though the movie was produced by Disney.  In spite of this, the instructor estimated that there were about 8 or 10 students that walked out on the movie well before this rather intense scene.