Canyon courage a gripping tale
Otherwise known as the ‘‘movie where the dude cuts his arm off’’, 127 Hours runs the risk of forever being defined by about 180 seconds – the scene where canyon climber Aron Ralston does, well, you know what.
With news reports of moviegoers keeling over in their seats and suffering seizures, it would a shame if discussion and appreciation of this picture is reduced to that one scene.
Sure, it’s pretty intense and hard to watch – which has as much to do with James Franco’s performance and sound-editing as it does graphic dismemberment – but greater focus should be lev- elled at Franco’s performance and director Danny Boyle’s ability to reap such stunning, arresting visuals from within the canyon crevice where Ralston is stuck for three-quarters of the picture (the picture was filmed on location).
One Friday evening in 2003, probably on a whim, the adventure-seeking 27-year-old drove from Colorado to the Canyonlands of Utah for a weekend of mountainbiking, climbing and whatever else got his heart pumping. He didn’t tell anyone where he was going.
While he was hiking through Bluejohn Canyon, a boulder became dislodged and pinned Ralston’s arm against the canyon wall. Alone, with a backpack of preserves and tools, he chronicles his plight on a video camera, until his severely dehydrated, delirious moment of truth: death or dismemberment.
This predicament, that would normally be retold on TV in some cheap movie-of-the-week, instead gets the royal treatment. Boyle ( Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire) is a master at fusing frenetic cinematography and music, and it’s to full effect here – even when Ralston is reduced to a stationary pillar of hope.
Through his camera footage we are transported into his thoughts and memories of family, the lover who got away, and the hope to one day be a father.
He realises how selfishness and a tendency to shut himself off from others has defined his relationships and wedged him towards his immediate fate.
I’ve always been a fan of Franco and it’s great to finally see him dominate a dramatic picture. His performance, particularly in the darkly comic scene where he interviews himself (breakfast TV style), is as good as any other from 2010.
As for that scene, it’s sweaty palm stuff, but if a wuss like me can handle it (I close my eyes watching ER), it will be bearable for most. At times harrowing, 127 Hours is a life-affirming tribute to the human spirit.
the human spirit.
Out on a limb: James Franco goes it alone and delivers an exceptional performance in the true life survival tale 127 Hours.