Monday, March 7, 2011

Movie Review: 127 Hours (2010)

So that bandwagon dropped by my house today. You know, the bandwagon of all the people who loved 127 Hours? Let's just say that I jumped right on.

The well-known story of the film is based on the true experience of a young climber named Aron Ralston. Aron goes for a hike by himself one day in Blue John Canyon and while shimmying around in a crevice, a boulder falls loose, and it and Aron fall into the crevice with the boulder crushing his hand and trapping him. Aron spends five tortured days trapped until he does the unthinkable to free himself.

What's to say about this film that so many others haven't already said? It is beautifully and artistically shot; emotionally paced; and authentically acted by the lead, James Franco. I'm a sentimental chick and Danny Boyle can deliver that shit so well it should be illegal. Slumdog Millionaire, even The Beach, and now 127 Hours are making me love this dude more and more. 'Nother bandwagon, and I'm on it.

I've said it once, I'll say it again and again: I think desert locations are ABSOLUTELY beautiful. The lush greens of a forest or jungle are nice, but I've always been drawn to the vastness of a desert, or similar-type location, with its rugged terrain and beautifully natural red and brown earth tones, perfectly lit by the afternoon sun. Jagged rocks and immense boulders might be intimidating or scary to some but it's like the perfect world to me. And the cinematography in this film captures this landscape in amazing ways and made me want to keep watching just to see more.

There were a lot of moments that really got to me in the movie. When Aron, starting to become hopelessly delirious, pretends that he is interviewing himself on a talk show, I got so sad. Though the scene is done in a humorous way, it has the exact opposite effect because Aron is admitting to himself his own stupidity and feeling of invincibility. They say all us young'uns have it, the feeling that we'll live another day to make more mistakes or correct the old ones, but the boulder teaches Aron that maybe he's not been living his life the best way for himself.

This is also confirmed in another great scene where Aron talks about how the boulder has been waiting for him since its own creation, like it's been out to get him. It's the cliche of how a near-death experience makes you appreciate your life more, sure, but I like the way that lesson is expressed in 127 Hours. Aron is fun-loving and a little cocky, which is perhaps why he never feels it necessary to tell anyone, friends or family, where he's going. Obviously once he's become trapped he realizes how stupid that was, how he should have told someone and how he should have answered the phone when his mother called.

His flashbacks and hallucinations are strangely shot, with some odd camera work but I suppose as hallucinations that makes sense. Lots of unnatural angles and editing give these scenes that truly dreamy feel, as little bits of Aron's life story are revealed. He has not treated his girlfriend right and not fully appreciated his relationship with his family - perhaps taken all of them for granted. A good lesson for anyone.

James Franco was definitely an up-and-comer but his earlier career left much to be desired. Then he made a leap in the fantastic film Milk in 2008 and now this one, so I'd say this boy has no place to go but up. He carries 127 Hours beautifully and gives a quite authentic and endearing performance. He's a kind of crazy and weird character whom you're unsure about in the beginning because he's slightly off but by the time the boulder traps his arm he becomes more real somehow and like somebody you would want to be friends with and get to know.

His character (and I guess the real guy, also) is smart about his situation. He tries inventive methods to move the boulder, even tries slowly chipping away at it and building an elaborate pulley system. He conserves his limited resources - though I knew early on that at some point I'd be watching him drink his own pee. The decision to amputate comes about more quickly than I thought and while this scene has traumatized some people who saw the film in early theater screenings (they fainted? seriously?), I didn't think it was all that bad.

Okay, I lied. That scene was kind of gross. The knife is like an inch long so after he breaks his arm twice, there are some pretty graphic shots of him sticking his fingers into his arm and pulling apart his muscle tissue or something. Wrong. So wrong. But I think it was important to the movie. It was Aron's big moment of truth and strength and courage and all that junk and the scene was handled well - graphic enough to be truthful, but not overly gruesome.

Good movie pretty much all around. Completely loved it. By the way, the text at the end that says that the real-life Aron always leaves a note to say where he is going to be made me cry. I don't know why, but I teared up like you wouldn't believe at that line.

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