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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, November 19, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 47
Harrowing 127 Hours an emotional rollercoaster
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Harrowing 127 Hours an emotional rollercoaster

by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN Contributing Writer

127 Hours
Opening November 19


In 2003, Utah mountain climber Aron Ralston (James Franco) decided to disappear for a couple of days to play around in some of the state's majestic (if desolate) canyons. He did not tell anyone where he was going. He did not anticipate having any difficulties. He didn't think there would be any sort of trouble. He was wrong on all counts.

For most people, what happened next is no surprise. The news reports documenting Ralston's harrowing experience were omnipresent, and you couldn't turn the channel without some reporter somewhere recounting the tale. It was one of those moments where truth became stranger than fiction, a testament to the triumph of the human spirit to survive.

Director Danny Boyle follows up his Oscar-winning smash Slumdog Millionaire by making a movie out of Ralston's ordeal. 127 Hours is told from his perspective, his point of view, and every minute of its narrative is coming out of a place of visceral intimacy which makes all that transpires as kinetic, as emotional, and as real as anything I've seen. It is a harrowing, ultimately euphoric piece of filmmaking that stirs the spirit and elevates the soul.

Boyle and co-writer Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day) have done a magnificent job of adapting Ralston's nonlinear, surrealistic memoir Between a Rock and a Hard Place. They put the audience right inside his head, right there within the canyon with him, and every one of his feelings are passed to the audience with superlative precision and expert skill. There hasn't been anything even close to similar this year (maybe Enter the Void, but they're so different stylistically that I'm not sure), and as such it ranks right up there with Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, and Millions as one of this director's greatest achievements.

None of this would have happened without Franco. I can't think of an actor who has thrown himself more into a performance in 2010. What he accomplishes is a true tour de force, going from highs to lows to everywhere in-between. Because he is Ralston, we in turn become Ralston, and without his unrefined and fearless magnificence I doubt there'd be much to talk about.

The film also triumphs from a technical standpoint. The cinematography by Anthony Dod Mantle (Antichrist) and Enrique Chediak (Charlie St. Cloud) is as good as it gets, and the duo is given a big assist from editor Jon Harris (Kick-Ass). This movie lives and it breathes - you can feel every kick and every ache thanks to their achievements, as they all work in such galvanizing symmetry that the cumulative effect is awe-inspiring.

During the movie, I squirmed. I was made uncomfortable. I didn't always like sitting in my theater seat as much as I wanted to. But that's hopefully par for the course, and if I didn't feel all of that (and more), then that would mean Boyle and company were not doing their jobs. I felt myself deteriorating at much the same rate that Ralston was, making his ability to overcome his travails all the more exhilarating. This is the type of film where that lump in my throat was very much needed, and the moment he finally found his voice in order to plead for help was the very same one where I wanted to raise my own in cheers.

I'm not going to say anything more. 127 Hours is a movie that should - maybe even must - be seen. Like I said, I knew Ralston's story going in, and yet I couldn't believe all that I was being made to feel, encouraged to see, and required to experience for myself. Boyle has crafted a rollercoaster of human emotion that's intimate and refined, and audiences who are ready to experience one of life's most trying tests will undergo nothing short of magic.

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