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127 Hours is a direct reference to the amount of time Aron Ralston, a young mountain climber was pinned under a boulder during an accident in 2003.  Leave it to Danny Boyle, director of Trainspotting {1996} and Slumdog Millionaire {2008} to turn a film about a guy being stuck in one place into something visually exciting and electric.

After a highly charged opening of blaring music and time lapse images flying by at the speed of todayís life, we meet Ralston, a freewheeling sort whose love of the mountains and caverns of Utah dates back to his childhood.  His ability to trot up and down the faces of very large rocks practically defies gravity and his knowledge of the geography almost encyclopedic.  Aron is in tune enough with his surroundings to point out to a pair of comely hikers, ďThings are moving all the timeĒ in the canyons.  When the mountain decides to move as heís crossing it, no one could prepare for the bizarre result:  After a deep fall into a ravine, Aron discovers heís got a new companion; a very heavy boulder, which in the twist of his fall has landed on his right arm, pinning it against the cave wall.  As part of the point of his sojourn into nature was to get away from it all, thereís no one nearby that can hear Aronís desperate screams once he realises that no amount of pushing, kicking, praying or chipping away with a cheap penknife is going to move the rock from his arm.  We watch as the plucky, resourceful young man does his best to cope with his strange situation, rationing out his supplies with one hand and documenting his time with a digicam.  We watch him cope with dehydration as his water runs out, as well as his unsavoury liquid substitute (Between Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire and now 127 Hours, Iím starting to think Boyleís got a fixation.).  Aron also has to guard against the freezing cold of being stuck in the depths of a mountain ravine over multiple nights.  Eventually, even Aronís good nature fails in the face of the inevitable as days go by and thereís no sign of passers-by and no hope of rescue.  Aron has a lot of time to reflect upon his life and the opportunities he let slip by.  Family, friends, loves lost and life as he wished it all take up his thoughts as he finds the resolve to survive by any means necessary.  Hereís where that cheap penknife comes in really handy.

Based on an all-too true story, besides the basic quandary of how to energise an audience about a film where the main character is unable to move, there is 127 Hoursí big question of how to present the inevitable climax without having that audience run for barf bags?  Hereís where Danny Boyleís faster than light sense of kinetics and audacious ingenuity come into play.  He takes the subject matter head on; using sound effects from the old Operation board game to further freak us out, and even though the scene is indeed gory and had me at one with the back of my seat, we never have to gaze too long at one thing.  Instead, quick flashes of imagery simultaneously make the point and soften the blow.  Boyle does succeed in bringing the terror of that moment home and while no one could ever truly know what Ralston experienced in those long, torturous moments, itís far clearer after this film how very courageous he had to be in order to escape slow, sure death.  James Francoís tour de force portrayal of Ralston as a laid back nature lover is so thorough that once his agreeable demeanour falters and the reality of his predicament seeps in, itís truly chilling.  In filming such a harrowing tale, writer Simon Beaufoy and director Boyle somehow find the right balance between the surefire horror of this real-life nightmare while making it truly uplifting and even entertaining.  Aronís conversations with himself and his digicam are often hilarious and his dehydration-induced visions are haunting and beautiful.  Having the Utah Mountains as a backdrop mustíve been easy pickings for cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle, who shows us rich, endless landscapes before plummeting the audience into Ralstonís claustrophobic hell.  All these cinematic elements come together perfectly around its unlikely subject matter to create one of the most thrilling and exciting films of the year.  I expect to hear 127 Hours mentioned frequently next February.


~ The Lady Miz Diva

November 1st, 2010




Click here to read our review of Slumdog Millionaire.

Click here to read our 2008 interview with director Danny Boyle & Slumdog Millionaire star Dev Patel.



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