Friday, March 25, 2011

127 Hours

Year: 2010
Director: Danny Boyle
Cast: James Franco, Kate Mara, Amber Tamblyn

Four out of the ten Best Picture candidates for this year's Oscars are either true stories or loosely based on a true story. 127 Hours is one of them.

This film tells the story of real life mountain climber Aron Ralston who went to Utah to explore the many canyons and narrow valleys there. He sets out in the wee hours of the morning without telling anyone about his destination.

While climbing down a narrow crevice at the canyon, he slips and falls down 65 feet and subsequently a boulder falls along and traps his right arm against the wall. From this moment on, Aron's harrowing ordeal begins.

He tries at first to dislodge the boulder, but to no avail. All he has with him are a cheap knife, a small flashlight, a camera, some food, rope and a small flask of water. With every failed attempt Aron makes to free himself, almost every ounce of hope of him surviving this disaster dissipates. In the end, he has to make a difficult decision: cut the trapped limb.

Don't worry if that sounded like a spoiler to you. The fact is, if you've heard about this film or read Aron's book regarding the experience, you'd already know what happened. And the film isn't really about what he does to escape, it's about the entire process of being trapped, how it feels and how the will to live is so important. To this end, director Danny Boyle does a splendid job in portraying Aron's 5 day ordeal being stuck in the canyon, with nowhere to go and no one to call for help. Cinematographers Anthony Dod Mantle, who worked with Boyle on Slumdog Millionaire and 28 Days Later, and Enrique Chediak (28 Weeks Later, Repo Men) also deserve praise for their wonderful work. They beautifully capture the vast canyon with aerial shots and more importantly, give us an up close view of Aron as he is stuck down there, thereby giving viewers the same feeling of being right there with him.

But all this wouldn't have worked so well if not for the awesome performance of James Franco, who as Aron, gives a career defining effort here. Through Franco, we see Aron's physical torture, as well as his emotional state and the occasional hallucinations he experiences while being pinned in the hole. Among others, he thinks of his parents, his ex girlfriend, his friends, the two hikers he met prior to the accident, played by Kate Mara and Amber Tamblyn, and imagines a young boy watching him. A couple of times he imagines escaping the boulder as well. From time to time, Aron makes video logs of himself, chronicling the entire episode. All this is done by Franco in a very realistic manner, and as you feel for him, you will root for him to finally succeed in escaping. Franco rightfully earns his Oscar nomination for the role.

Boyle got A.R. Rahman (Slumdog) to provide the music score, and he does so brilliantly, using upbeat music and alternating with quieter tunes to suit the scene. Boyle himself was smart enough to keep the film at a lean 94 minutes, thus making sure it didn't overstay its welcome, and it does justice to the true story that inspired it.

An inspiring real life event that will scare you as much as it will make you cheer. (But be warned, if you're queasy around blood, you may not want to see the cutting scene.) (4/5)

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