Friday, February 4, 2011

127 HOURS (2010)

Written by Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy

Directed by Danny Boyle

Where & When: Laemmle Sunset 5, West Hollywood, CA.  January 25, 2011  7:00PM

I had put off seeing "127 Hours", the film based on the true-life story of Aron Ralston, a young mountain climber whose arm becomes trapped by a boulder and the extreme and disturbing measures he goes through to free himself. The way he has to escape from this predicament is the exact reason why I had avoided seeing this film.

First, I didn't think this story would make a particularly entertaining movie as well as it seems like it could possibly be slightly exploitive and second, I am very squeamish and had no desire whatsoever to want to sit through watching someone remove anything from their body.

After the film was nominated for six Academy Awards including for Best Picture, I decided I should just man-up and see "127 Hours". I am happy to report that I managed to get through it but just barely.

James Franco plays Aron, who takes a hiking trip to the National Park in Utah. He enjoys being alone outdoors and riding his bike through the wilderness but, for whatever reason, doesn't let anyone know that he has gone on this trip.

While out in the mountains, Aron runs in to two attractive, young women (Amber Tamblyn and Kate Mara) who were out hiking but have lost their way. They hang out together for a time and go swimming after Aron shows them a hidden pool in a cave. Before they depart, the ladies invite Aron to attend a party later that evening ,which he accepts.

Later, Aron was climbing a mountain when a boulder comes loose, which causes him to fall down an isolated canyon with the rock pinning his arm against the wall. Unable to free himself, he tries to remain calm and takes inventory of what he has on him, which include some climbing rope, a bottle of water, a flashlight, a video camera, a folding knife but, unfortunately, no cell phone. He uses these items plus his wits and skill as a climber to try get himself out of this disaster.

With nothing more than just his thoughts to keep him company, Aron looks back on his life which include his relationships and how he should have made more time in his life for his family and his girlfriend. He video tapes a diary of his ordeal but that soon leads to making, what could be, final messages to his family. Aron is determined to get out of this alive but as each day passes by, he realises that he is running out of time and options, so he must make some drastic decisions.

Mr. Boyle, who last directed the Oscar-winning Best Picture, "Slumdog Millionaire", has used plenty of dazzling cinematic techniques to visually stimulate this seemingly static tale but the tricks never become overbearing nor distracting and keeps the focus on the story of Mr. Ralston's will and termination to survive.

"127 Hours" would only work if the right actor is in place, capable of carrying the entire film and convincingly take you on this man's harrowing journey and Mr. Franco, who has earned a well-deserved Academy Award nomination, is in full command here. He gives an moving and emotionally complex performance and manages to find humor at times where you would least expect it. I have to admit that I used to dread seeing Mr. Franco's name in any film credit because as an actor, I had found him too mannered and just plain irritating but after this and his other recent appearances in "Pineapple Express", "Milk" and even "Howl", he has completely turned me around and I now look forward to his next screen appearance.

While I greatly admired "127 Hours" with its inventive film making, the brilliant performance of  Mr. Franco, and the inspiring and uplifting story, you still could not pay me to sit through this movie again.