With so much negativity constantly flowing throughout the news every passing minute, it can sometimes feel as though this world is a lost cause, filled with nothing but hate, war and crime. Then a story comes around like the one told in Academy Award winning director Danny Boyle’s latest film, 127 Hours, that inspires and invigorates our faith in the human spirit.
Based on the life of mountain climber, and adventurer extraordinaire, Aron Ralston, the movie tells the story of the unthinkable actually happening during one of Aron’s trips to the canyons of Moab, Utah. Aron (played by James Franco) wakes up at the crack of dawn, and sets out to break a canyon trail record, and face whatever obstacles that cross his path, like he’d done many times before. Along the way he meets up with two young women, Kristi and Megan (played by Kate Mara and Amber Tamblyn respectively) who have lost their way. Knowing the canyon like the back of his hand, Aron takes it upon himself to guide the ladies to their destination, and show them some of the simple pleasures that this vast maze of rocks has to offer.
After some cave diving of sorts, Aron points the ladies in the right direction, then continues on his solo mission, slipping in and out of tight spots, never showing any fear, though always showing just enough caution as to be prepared for anything that may happen. Of course, one can’t prepare for everything, and after he taps on a boulder to make sure it’s secure, Aron begins to move across it when the rock slips free from its holding place, causing both it, and Aron to fall deep into a crevice in the canyon. This is where everything becomes so unbelievable, that if you didn’t know it was based on fact, you’d almost have to laugh at what the odds of something like this happening would be, as once the dust settles, Aron finds his arm completely wedged between the boulder that had fallen, and the canyon wall where they both landed.
While a few liberties were taken with the story, very few were far from the truth; in fact, most things that seem the most unreal, such as Aron becoming a modern-day MacGyver, and using various ropes and pieces of equipment he brought to make a sling to sit in so he could rest, were actually completely true. It’s small things such as how Aron and the girls went swimming at the start of the film that were changed, and Boyle did so in order to show just how much we take water for granted, and just how important it is to us when we don’t have it readily available.
Boyle’s work on the film is really fantastic, as he just has a wonderful visionary take on how films should come across, and really brings reality to life in such an entertaining, absorbing way. He and cinematographers Enrique Chediak and Anthony Dod Mantle get some great shots and perspectives of Franco, all while remaining in one place throughout almost the entire film. Their work really added to the peril of the situation, and get the viewer right up in there to the point where it wasn’t surprising to find myself trying to catch my breath at certain points, as the feeling of being in such an enclosed space, even in just my mind, became unnerving.
Editor Jon Harris must also be given credit, as his perfect sense of timing and flawless work in general really added to the feeling of helplessness that the situation required. His work, and the work of those mentioned above, really piqued, however, as time went on, and Aron began hallucinating. The shots, angles, and imagery used during these scenes really takes the film to another level, and does so in such a realistic manner, that you can feel hope slipping away.
Above all else, a film like this relies on acting more than anything. With most of the film showcasing Franco, by himself, trying to figure out how he’s going to free himself from his would be grave, the entire movie really rests on his shoulders, and he succeeds brilliantly. Franco is a talented actor, and his gifts seem to come naturally, as we’ve seen many times, he’s able to take on any part, no matter how big or small, and really steal the show. When it all comes down to it, it’s easy to see why this role garnered him an Oscar nomination for Best Actor.
I’ve saved this part for last, as some may see it as spoilers, but most already know about it. If you don’t know how Aron freed himself from his rocky tomb, then skip down to my closing thoughts; however, it’s almost better if you read what I have to say, if for no other reason than to prepare you for something that many weren’t prepared to see. In order to survive, Aron cut off his own arm, and the film depicts this act quite graphically. There were reports of people fainting, and not being able to stomach it, and this one scene alone was the reason many chose to avoid the film altogether, and that’s a shame. The scene is graphic, and it is hard to watch, but the film, and the inspirational message it processes is worth suffering through the pain. And that’s just it, as Boyle puts us beside Aron the entire time, it’s only fair that we join him in breaking free, and as painful as it may be for some to watch, just imagine what point you’d have to reach when facing your own mortality where you’d do the same thing.
127 Hours is an extremely entertaining film, that really comes to life with the masterful acting job done by Franco, and the beautifully woven story told by the directing hand of Boyle. It’s filled with suspense, shocks, triumph, and as hard as it is to believe, even a few laughs when times seem toughest. It’s a film that really makes you think, Could I do this if it happened to me? No matter what answer you come up with, you really never do know, just as I’m sure that Aron didn’t, that is, until it happened to him.
The audio is presented in 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, and sounds absolutely fantastic. The music tracks used in the film are great, and completely suit the scenarios they’re used in. They come through loud and clear, and never take away from the dialogue used in the same scenes, if there is any. The video, presented in widescreen 1.85:1 looks stunning. The colours are vibrant, and crisp, and the scenes later when Aron is hallucinating shine through beautifully. It really is a great transfer on every level.
Feature Commentary: Director/Co-Screenwriter Danny Boyle, Producer Christian Colson, and Co-Screenwriter Simon Beaufoy – Here’s a commentary filled with people who want to add extra layers to this film. Boyle alone would have been worth listening to, so the addition of two others to bounce off of only helps things. Unfortunately, as is the case most times, the actors aren’t available for the commentary, as the addition of Franco to this piece would have made it a must-listen.
Deleted Scenes – There are seven deleted scenes, one of which is an alternate ending. While I’ve never been a big fan of deleted scenes, this one had me intrigued as to what they may have cut out. Again, my usual thoughts on the cutting room floor came through, as these scenes were cut for a reason, and would have added little, while slowing the pacing more than anything. The alternate ending is along the same lines, as it adds a bit with the Dutch family who finds Aron in the canyon, where they’re explaining what happened on a talk show, as well as a few other scenes, like a moment with Aron and his mom in the hospital. Again, it really ruins the perfect pacing that the ending needed moving forward, and it was a good choice to make the cuts.
Search and Rescue: Actual events that aided the search and rescue of Aron Ralston – This 14 minute feature is a must watch for those who pick up the Blu-ray, as it shows just how perfect everything had to work out in order for Aron’s story to be one of triumph, instead of one of tragedy. While Aron was working on figuring out a way out, people were frantically trying to find him on the outside. One of the craziest parts of this feature was hearing his mother explain that as far as the timeline goes, they had just found his truck at the moment when Aron was preparing to cut his arm off. It’s simply amazing how the timing of it all worked out, as even if things had happened a half an hour later, Aron likely would have died on the canyon floor. It’s almost a 14 minute sequel to the movie, showing the other side of things, and it shouldn’t be missed.
127 Hours: An Extraordinary View – Here’s a 35 minute feature where we step into the warehouse that Boyle had turned into a complete replica of the canyon where Aron was trapped. While the film looks as though it was filmed on location, we quickly learn that the sheer amount of people that had to hike out to location when they were filming the opening scenes, would have made it impossible to do the entire movie there. The set looks fantastic though, and Boyle made it so that there was no give in the walls, and everything was just as tight as it would have been had they shot on location, thus adding to the claustrophobic shots, and overall feel of the film. There’s a lot we learn about the making of this film here, and the story of Aron that we don’t find out in the film as well (such as it took him 40 minutes to cut his arm off) as well as the type of guy Franco is (he’s always reading a book, no matter what, at all times. The focus this guy has is astonishing.) Again, this is a no-brainer, and a must see for fans of the film.
Short Film: God of Love – Here’s the Oscar winning short by writer/director/actor Luke Matheny. It runs at just under 19 minutes, and is quite an entertaining piece of work. It’s original, funny, well shot, and well acted by all involved. If you have a chance to see this film, whether through these extras, or elsewhere, definitely check it out.
There’s also a digital copy of the film.
127 Hours is a film that should be seen by all. It’s inspirational, it’s entertaining, and it’s an incredibly well made film on all levels. James Franco has done some incredible work in the past, but this is a role that he’ll be recognized by for his entire career, and rightfully so. It’s a film that is truly engaging on all accounts, and once it’s finished, it’s the exact type of film that you can fall right into time and time again.
Fox Searchlight Pictures presents 127 Hours. Directed by: Danny Boyle. Starring: James Franco. Running time: 94 minutes. Rating: R. Released on Blu-ray and DVD: March 1, 2011
Tags: 127 Hours, Danny Boyle, James Franco, Oscar, survival