127 Hours (Danny Boyle, 2010): USA/UK

Reviewed by Kathleen Amboy.  Viewed at the Riviera, Santa Barbara, CA.

127 Hours is the amount of time that hiker and rock-climber Aron Ralston spent pinned down by a boulder inside a canyon.

In the early morning hours of a May morning in 2003, alone and unafraid, Aron Ralston (James Franco) sets out to hike Canyonlands National Park in Moab, Utah.  He parks his car, then pedals his roadbike in about 17 miles, before hiking on foot.  Along the way he stumbles upon two female hikers who have veered off their trail and, being an expert, Ralston not only guides them back, but shows them an alternate route with a wonderful pool of water.

Once on his own again, Ralston proceeds with his hike until he slips and a large boulder comes crashing over his head, trapping his right forearm.  Ralston remains calm, assesses the situation, and sets about with various tasks attempting to free himself.  By the fifth day, existing on bodily fluids alone, he takes drastic measures with a very dull knife.

Although supposedly an expert, he has no helmet, not enough water and no buddy!  And this is where the real story begins.  Ralston’s over-confidence in his own abilities is what gets him into trouble, and his ultimate journey is one of self-reflection.

127 Hours is full of action, sprinkled with humor, and very much a tear-jerker.  A tear-jerker?  Yes, very much so.  I found myself emotionally choked up for a few hours after the film had ended!  James Franco is solid and delivers a moving and heartfelt performance as Ralston.

There are elements in the film that only Danny Boyle can attempt and tactfully achieve, whereas another director might botch it, such as a fictional game show transpiring in the mind of Ralston as he hallucinates, or the split-screen process in several scenes.  The Boyle energy abounds in the pacing, the soundtrack, the cuts – and it works!

Warning:  there is a horrific scene.  It is not gore from a mindless splice and dice film, it is an integral part of the reflective and enduring process.  If you turn away or close your eyes you will be missing a vital part of Ralston’s journey.

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