Buff Review Show- Goes Canyoneering for a spot of Open-Air Surgery
With the DVD release imminent in most regions, it seems as good a time as any to post my review for 127 Hours, Danny’s Boyle’s Oscar hopeful hit from the award season just gone, starring James Franco. Plus a good friend of mine (and employer) @xeroxeroxero, from www.inretrospectpodcast.com (check out my affiliates for another link), just recently saw ‘Slumdog Millionaire’, another great Boyle film, so this goes out to Xero!
127 Hours is based off the book, which is based off the real-life experience, of Aron Ralston, an American mountain climber, outdoor enthusiast and now public speaker. He gained fame in May 2003 when, while canyoneering in Utah, he was forced to amputate his lower right arm with a dull knife in order to free himself after his arm became trapped by a boulder. The film is presented autobiographically of the events leading up to that incident, and the five and a bit days he spent trapped there, trying to keep himself alive and free himself, all the while losing in to the elements and the restraints of his body when put under the pressure and strain of the situation.
There is no sense in trying to hide what happens as many people know what happened to Rolston on that incident, but even if you don’t remember it from then you may have read his book, obviously titled “Between a Rock and a Hard Place” because presumably “Dude, Where’s My Right Arm? Oh Wait, it’s Trapped Under this Boulder!” wouldn’t fit on the front cover… Or indeed you would have read about this film recently because of all the fuss surrounding it coming up to Oscar season. Each year we all need a good autobiographical retelling of a recent American tale that is always equal measures touching and tragic and patriotic, see last year’s perpetrator The Blind Side, for which Sandra Bullock won the Oscar for. Deservedly, I have to say, as it is still a standout performance, but it is the story and the script itself that she worked with that did a lot of the work.
But this film deserves at least 90% of the hype it is trying to steal away from The King’s Speech, Colin Firth’s opportunity to win every award ever made it seems. And while there are plenty of other films around vying for everyone attention, the problem is we haven’t seen the vast majority of those films nominated for awards- Black Swan is yet to be released along with True Grit and The Fighter, all of which are set to pick up several awards apiece.
So we have 127 Hours, out of the starting blocks a few weeks ahead of the competition but by no means was it rushed out. The film is polished to within an inch of its life, but that special kind of Hollywood polish that doesn’t glamorize and reduce the impact of the original incident. This is like taking a priceless Ming Vase and polishing it with gravel using a handful of wire wool and then transporting said vase in a box padded only with iron filings and faulty Swiss-army knives. And still the Ming Vase comes out looking just as good as before. And that’s what 127 Hours is- a priceless piece of cinema that is both fragile and incredible in equal measure but isn’t afraid to get itself dirty for the sake of staying true to it’s concept.
The story goes Aron Rolston, seasoned climber and extreme sports enthusiast, was hiking/climbing/swimming/flirting his way across Blue John Canyon, Utah in 2003 when the incident happened that caused him to be stuck in the canyon trying to free himself for 127 hours. What we are treated to in roughly an hour of just James Franco and his mind and his final thoughts, wishes and visions as he spends those five days crucially trying to reserve his water, recycle his own urine, try to free his arm and indeed use what little resources he has (a cheap knife, ropes and cords, lights, camera, rucksack, map etc) to try and Blue Peter his way out of harm’s way and live to climb another ravine.
James Franco really does bring the sense of desperation that Rolston must have gone through. You can’t even begin to relate what it must have been like, and the research that went into this must have been phenomenal. Everything from Rolston’s dehydrated visions to his final recordings to the messages he leaves scraped on the canyon wall, all of it delivered and shot brilliant under the direction of Danny Boyle. The film is beautifully crafted from start to end, despite the slightly eye-straining split-screen moments the film has here and there, particularly THOSE opening credits… But the journey James Franco takes us on as he accurately depicts Aron Rolston’s descent into near death and near madness is endearing and heart-pummelling throughout.
But a warning to all of you venturing to the cinema to go and see this film! It is visceral! With a capital V, and maybe underlined several times in permanent marker. This is visceral multiplied by grim with a quick dash of intense. The scene right near the end of Rolston’s entrapment in the canyon is frighteningly realistic and difficult to watch even for those of us with the most hardened stomachs. One guy collapsed behind me, (a tad over-dramatically, I mean there was really no need to collapse AND throw your popcorn at me, but whatever…) but there have been reports of people fainting from watching the film here and there. If you can sit through an average episode of Casualty and some of the milder scenes from something like Saw don’t give you the proverbial willies, you should be okay.
Don’t say you haven’t been warned.
At the end of the day, the film is brilliant and deserves the credit it is due, and Danny Boyle had better have made plenty of room in his cabinet because I think this film is going to give the King’s Speech a run for it’s money a bit, if Natalie Portman’s Black Swan doesn’t get in there first that is!