Tuesday, November 30, 2010

127 Hours

"Drinking Your Own Epiphany"
"Rock On/('Ooops')/Arm(our) Off"

The story of Aron Ralston, extreme....everything, who, on a solo trek through Canyonlands National Park in Utah finds himself stuck in a seam of the Earth pinned down by a boulder he has no way of moving, is a harrowing story of survival, self-reliance and an ultimate example of "a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do."* Beyond the gruesome headlines is the story of a young man, who, faced with a situation putting him, literally and figuratively "between a rock and a hard place" (the title of his book outlining the story), chose to follow his philosophy to an extreme act, losing a part of himself, but gaining far, far more.

Not your typical film subject.  In fact, it would be a daunting thing to film, not only from a technical aspect—limited staging, convincing illusions of the injury—but from a dramatic one, as well (we're talking one-man show in a cave).

Danny Boyle's film of the incident, though, 127 Hours, not only makes the film seem invisibly easy to accomplish—one doesn't think for a moment of the filming difficulties, so engrossed are you in the challenges of the film-Ralston in his tasks trying to extricate himself and survive, basically—it is an intense, kaleidoscopic presentation of a human psyche in solitary duress.  Ralston (James Franco) fights the battle on two fronts: physically, dealing with his limited options and the practical, and impractical, tools at his disposal; and mentally, as he struggles with the mental challenges of time, pain and personality.  With only 15 minutes of sunlight each day, which he finds the capacity to luxuriate through, he keeps a running countdown of resources, limited food and water, the tools at his command and his own diminished capacity.  He knows his time and options are limited, and gradually, as they run out—that poster embedded here suggests, very appropriately, an hour-glass—he must come to grips with his responsibility to himself, and the people in his life that, heretofore, have been merely fleeting encounters, as jettisonable as the wrapper of his last Power bar.

Time wounds all heels.  And in his forced imprisonment, the taking stock of Aron Ralston brings focus and clarityThe hyper-activity of Ralston's previous life, which Boyle crams into a split-screen multi-speed, multi-media format, is stilled, brought to a very narrow range of existence, and places him in the Here and Now, as opposed to the Next Empty Thing.  Time and relationships become essentials, and his own self, literally and metaphorically, becomes disposable.  He discards, mentally, physically, what has become useless.

And chooses life.

Wow.  Great story.  "Intense" (as one Grand Cinema patron remarked leaving the theater gasped) and harrowing.

Don't let the amputation aspects of the film turn you off to a great film experience.  Yes, it's graphic (Boyle prepares you for it with early attempts that do nothing to solve the situation—they're more exploratory surgeries), yes, there will be blood...and sinew and gristle...and nerve-slicing—which Boyle and his sound-designers amp up with a dentist-drill irritation—but, nothing that hasn't been CSI'd into our consciousness to the point of numbness.  By this time, the identification with Ralston has become so empathetic, that I (perversely, I guess) found the episode liberating, and an act to be cheered.

Boyle's quilting of the movie is brilliant, but he's aided and abetted by an army of technicians who keep things fascinating, not the least of which are cinematographers Enrique Chediak and Anthony Dod Mantle, and Boyle's Slumdog Millionaire composer A.R. Rahman (and a goofily eclectic soundtrack).

But the hero is Franco.  After seeming a bit of a "meh" actor in the first Spiderman movie, it has been fun to watch him grow as an actor, first in that series, and in the clutch of carefully chosen dramas and comedies he has made since.  Boyle has set a fine table, but Franco is the center-piece, the one essential ingredient that had to "work" to pull it all together.  This is a sure Oscar-nominated performance, and, if there's any justice, he'll get the statuette, as well.

Oscar-wise, Boyle might even pull a "two-fer."  We're on the cusp of December and the Christmas movie crush, but it is not hard to imagine 127 Hours turning out to be the best movie of the year.

127 Hours is a Full-Price Ticket. **

Aron Ralston.  Rock On.


* I still remember where I was and what I was doing when I first heard the news reports of his story and what he did. I also recall my reaction, which consisted of taking a deity's name in vain, and contemplating—for several minutes—what I would have done in that situation. I could conjure no definitive answer except "Maybe...but certainly not as well."

** I'd say "Give 'em a hand" but that might be a little crass.


The Mad Hatter said...

I totally agree with damned near every word of this post. We need to keep spreading the word so this flick can start playing on more screens!

Yojimbo_5 said...

And I'd guess the one word you wouldn't agree with would be the redundant "remarked" that I ham-typed in there.

127 Hours is a tough sell--because of the story-line AND its solution...especially for a Christmas movie ("...just in time to celebrate the birth of the Baby Jesus!"), but IT IS SO GOOD, that one hopes a potential customer can overcome their quease-reflex and go (like The Hurt Locker, it might be another Best Picture that no one has seen), rather cower at home with a DVD of it. Reports of audience-runnings-out haven't helped (Boyle says then they ran back in)...but that helped box office for The Exorcist.

I don't know. People should GO...just GO. They won't regret the decision.

The Mad Hatter said...

Nah, your ham-typing is fine.

It is a tough sell, but like you say man...people need to just suck it up and go, because it's about more than that. It's as much a movie about epiphany as IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE!

Funny story though, I'll be talking about this movie for my next podcast episode (going online Monday), and the blogger in the guest seat only went to see this because I told her to.

She had no clue what it was about...
She had no clue what was coming...