Sunday, January 30, 2011
#45: 127 Hours
127 Hours marks Danny Boyle's return to movies after the heights of stardom he and his cast achieved worldwide with the Slumdog Millionaire in 2008. The movie catapulted Danny Boyle in the big league although his first movie Trainspotting was probably a better one. Needless to say, his next effort was going to followed very keenly and judgements would've been drawn on whether Danny just got plain lucky with Slumdog Millionaire or whether he was a filmmaker who was indeed one among the world's best. Once you've seen it, 127 Hours will leave no such doubt in your mind.
The movie is the true story about an incident in the life of Aron Ralston - a passionate rock climber who got his arm inextricably caught between the proverbial rock and the hard place. (The name of the book on which the movie his based is called Between a Rock and a Hard Place). James Franco plays the spunky Aron and is introduced to us as a crazy individual who loves his climbs over the weekends. The one mistake he makes when he sets out on this one is not leaving a note to any of his friends or family. What begins as a routine expedition in the morning transforms into a nightmare for Aron by afternoon. The sudden change in the mood of the movie is palpable and prepares you for the shocking visuals of the climax. As it progresses, there's nothing to do for the viewer but to empathize with Aron as he spends 5 nights and 6 days all alone in a place devoid of any humanity. Oh and let's not forget the most important part- he's got his arm stuck in all this.
Over these 127 hours, Aron laughs, cries, screams, whispers, hopes, hallucinates, repents and records all these emotions in his video cam. He also figures out that the only way he could escape this ordeal was if he cut his own arm and on the sixth day with a cheap multi-use tool he starts severing it. Danny Boyle, along with Simon Beaufoy ( who won an Oscar for the Best Adapted Screenplay for Slumdog Millionaire) keeps the narrative stark and the inevitable climax hits you hard even though you knew this from the very beginning. Shot over the desolate terrain of Utah, cinematographers Anthony Dod Mantle and Enrique Chediak bring out the beauty of the Blue John Canyon in the beginning and then contrast it with it's beastly unforgiving nature towards the end. This is a movie that has a boulder playing a character and while you're watching Aron go through his ordeal, you can't help but stay in awe of that motionless inanimate rock. James Franco plays his part with a natural elan and brings the desperation of his character to the fore with immense skill. Whether or not he wins an Oscar, his performance will stay in your memory for a long time. You relate to what Aron Ralston might've gone through in real-life when you see Franco and if that is not a benchmark of the pinnacle of acting, nothing else will be.
127 Hours is an ode to the human spirit of survival. As a viewer, Danny Boyle's offering will elevate you to a plane where Aron's pain becomes your own, his redemption your reward and his journey a lesson that life is not to be taken for granted. He succeeds in bringing the might of the mountains in all it's awe and glory to remind you it doesn't take more than an instant for nature to turn your life on it's head. As a movie, 127 Hours is probably Danny's best- ironically the realism making the viewing experience even more dramatic. It's impact will shake and rankle you. More importantly however, it will stay with you as an example that the greatest gift mankind has to itself is the mind and nothing is unsurmountable when it applies itself.
And for that, take a bow, Danny. Take a bow !