As I mentioned only a few posts ago, I am a huge fan of Danny Boyle's work. I plan to do a complete analysis of his entire body of work at some point in the future and still have a considerable amount of his works to get through. The most recent viewing was that of 127 Hours, the one film that worried me in his oeuevre, considering that it did not receive very much critical praise and stars one of my least favorite actors, James Franco. To be honest as the movie began I was rather skeptical of its validity, aside from some brilliant cinematography and unusual narrative it seemed to have very little going for it in a completely fillmic sense. I should have known better though, considering that the work was by Danny Boyle, as is so often the case with his works, he takes a situation and places it within normalcy and waits ever so patiently to take the viewers comforts away by large slaps of suspense, we see this in works like 28 Days Later... and to some extent Slumdog Millionaire. Furthermore, I was in awe of how well delivered James Franco's performance was, and while it certainly does not cause me to place him in a tier of great actors, it was a pleasant surprise to find his presence in scenes anything but grating. Perhaps the greatest element of this film is that it is grounded in a factual experience. Having heard about the film for a great deal of time I knew the twists within the film, yet found each piece of narrative rewarding and engaging from his initial departure to his climactic return to civilization. I am starting to gain some certainty about Danny Boyle's place in the filmmaking word, considering that one of his lesser films still proves to be leaps and bounds better than most of his contemporaries.
The film, as stated is based on the experiences of Aron Ralston, a carefree climbing enthusiast who spent a traumatic 127 hours trapped beneath a bolder in the canyons of Utah. The film begins with Aron (James Franco) leaving for his trip while making his plans and location a secret to his boss, girlfriend and even mother. It appears as though his trip will be of little difficulty, particularly considering that he runs into a duo of women hikers who he wins over with ease by showing them a cool hidden crevasse containing a pool. While the two women clearly display interest in him, Aron is aloof to their advances and continues on his journey with indifference. It is not much farther into this journey that he meets tragedy by slipping on a rock and becoming trapped underneath its mass. It is at this point that he begins to panic and struggle for freedom, drinking much of his water in the process. In a matter of hours, Aron's surival instinct kicks in and he begins using his small amount of items to help obtain freedom, as well as protect him from the constantly changing weather. Water proves to be Aron's greatest concern, so much so that he begins to drink his water in panic, to the point of needing to rely on his urine for a small amount of hydration. As delirium sets in, Aron begins to reflect on his life and his mistakes, something he keeps track of in his film journal. His visions range between his tumutuous relationship with his girlfriend to his rather distanced one with his mother. He attempts to beg for forgiveness, although he is doing it to the silence of the canyons. He even begins to see visions of his future, a time that involves him hanging out with a yet unborn son. After amputating his arm, Aron finally escapes the canyon and is helped by hikers in the canyon. The closing shots explain that Aron's premonitions came true, even the one about having a child.
127 Hours is a film about self-reflection and overcoming turmoil. However, it is unusual in that the entire process takes place within a single individuals world. For a better portion of the film, we are only shown the experiences of Aron. Even the moments that involve other people are stationed within his own consciousness, a fact that clearly influences the narrative. Furthermore, what makes 127 Hours particularly unusual is that the character within the film is far from perfect. Aron has many moments of failure and lack as a human, in most other films of that nature each action engaged in by the protagonist would be heroic. Beyond this, Boyle's film does not shy away from some of the more gruesome and brutal elements of its story. The film goes to great lengths to show the pain involved with amputating ones arm and Aron by no means deals with the act coolly. Even the action of him drinking his own urine is made intense by his constant bickering and concern. The ultimate seen of his pre-evolved materialistic nature is when he wines about the multitool his mother gave him, since it proves completely useless in helping him escape, however, he quickly realizes that when he was gifted the item he, nor his mother, could have ever imagined it would be used for such a task. With his heroism in question, it is important to remind readers that he is quite brave and acts with strokes of genius frequently throughout the film. This is clear when he manages to use each of his items to keep him warm in the cool desert nights, as well as his expert execution of a tourniquet, in one of the films most gruesome scenes. Ultimately, it is not a film that intends to make Aron an unquestionable hero, but one that simply tells his story for what it is, something so completely unbelievable that it seems fictional, were it not for the presence of the person alltogether.
Key Secne: The initial urine drinking scene is done in an experimental nature, as much of the film is, but is at its best during this portion.
For those who love Danny Boyle, 127 Hours is a must own work, for those who are unsure please rent it at least, it is well worth a viewing.