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127 Hours - Movie Review by A.D.Harris

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Aron Ralston. If you don't know the name you've been living under a rock for 5 years. The pun of course is intended as that's exactly what he did, for 127 hours he was stuck in a canyon with a boulder crushing his right arm. Danny Boyle's latest masterpiece tells the story to an astonishing level of accuracy; I read that only a scene where James Franco's Ralston shows some hitch-hikers a drop into a pool beneath the rocks is not accurate to the event of the 6 days surrounding this astonishing tale.
The story is a tough one to pull off on screen, a man who is unable to move, alone for nearly the entire movie. It doesn't feel like stellar material for the big screen, but thankfully the tale was given two aces who pushed the story into gripping drama.
Firstly, Danny Boyle at the helm was an inspired choice; fresh from his Oscar winning turn in Slumdog Millionaire, Boyle is enjoying a spell of creative freedom with which he can demonstrate his previously under-appreciated skills. Bizarre and masterful shots from inside water bottles, on top of video cameras & water-filling-canyon-hallucinations are some examples of cinematography & direction thrown in to add life to the motionless situation with brilliant effect and to keep the audience on their toes. It definetely added weight to certain scenarios; visibly seeing his water bottle running low in such a way was brilliant.
However understanding the character was the one thing that mattered, and the way Boyle brought Ralston's story to life was key. The script oozes screenwriting quality, focusing on the relationships firstly between Ralston and the two hitch-hikers and moving flawlessly into a relationship told through Ralston's eyes on his family and love life. The entire movie is layered with flashbacks, hallucinations and imaginations of his life, flipping in and adding understanding to flesh out Ralston's personality and character whilst he isn't even interacting with anyone. It should be nigh on impossible to bring out such development to a character who is on his own for 80% of the screen-time. But throughout Ralston's book and his openness on his time in the canyon, mixed with Boyle's direct focus on the main character, the movie is created in an unusual-biography type of story. It just so happens that this man is trapped in a 'Saw' style trap...
Introducing the additional scene with the pool and the death-defying drop that Ralston shows the two hitch-hikers was perhaps necessary to help Boyle bring out what sort of character he is. It also gives the audience more appreciation for a man who takes no cell phone, tracking beacon with him and also tells no one where he is; he's a rogue, he's confident and he really is a person who we, as an audience, feel would normally be fine in such a location. We're made to feel sympathetic for the unluckiness rather than apathetic for thinking Ralston as foolish.
All this work by the director is good, but the movie also needs one other key ingredient, which he finds in James Franco; there's no denying he's come a long way from his Spiderman days. He oozes quality, bringing across Ralston's bright personality and then layering a performance of a genius of his craft as the fear, paranoia and acceptance of death begin to hit him. A brilliant scene where Ralston is interviewing himself in front of the camera for being such an idiot had the potential of looking like the Gollum scene in 'The Two Towers' but is delivered in a way that makes it more spooky and sad than bizarre, and all the while gives you a few laughs as Ralston makes light of the situation he finds himself in.
Then comes the all important moment, the moment that the audience knows is coming long before Ralston does. Subtle hints thrown in from the first second; the just out of reach Swiss Army Knife, the spare bottle of water left on the car seat. You know the moment is coming and it adds spice to the equation, and because of this Boyle teases you early on when Ralston plunges the knife into his arm; everyone in the theatre thinking "already?!"
But no, Boyle is just playing with you, and even when you feel its arrival coming, it still takes you by surprise; And boy is it visceral and graphic, a moment when Ralston tears through a nerve without a doubt the most butt-clenching moment.
I do say don't be put off seeing 127 Hours because of this scene, you must see it for one of the most remarkable stories of survival ever seen on film; Jigsaw himself would be proud.
As I look back at my review, my spell check doesn't like the word Ralston and I notice that my writing looks like one big spelling mistake. And it highlights that this move really is all about one man, Aron Ralston. As a story it's brilliant, as a true story, it's magical. You will leave the theatre on a high, because despite all the gloom in the world on a daily basis, here is one story of a man who really did something amazing because he still wanted to be in it.
So in some respects this isn't just a movie, it's a wake up call.



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Twitter: @AdDHarris
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