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

Reviewed by Kyle Calbreath. Viewed at The Riviera Theater, Santa Barbara, CA.

During the new film 127 hours, directed by Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire), I had to use the restroom rather significantly. Yet a deep digging performance and cut above the rest filmmaking fully distracted me.

The plot goes as such. It’s based on the true story of Aron Ralston, played to a stellar extreme by James Franco, the hiker who got trapped in a deep crevice when he slipped and fell. A small, yet heavy, boulder fell with him. The rock smashed onto his arm leaving him pinned with no use of said arm. I will not give anything away by saying that he will chop his arm off later because of the highly covered actual event a few years back.

In the beginning of the film extreme long shots pan out far and wide to juxtapose the solitary terrain of the great outdoors with the tight sights and sounds of everyday human consumerism.

Once detained between a rock, and yes, another rock, Boyle zooms the camera, bringing the struggle in close. The story is now confined with physical, visual and mental hardships. When Ralston is at first attempting to move the behemoth piece of stone he pounds it, shakes it and yells at it screaming, “move this fucking rock!” in an almost cocky, confident command to help himself.

The movie moves along, often times taking a look into the past or looking into the future. He wants to see his family and friends again, the son he now wants to have, but knows this may never happen unless he removes himself. He begins to record messages onto his personal camcorder. Ralston maintains a tired dignity while in the confines of his new rock chamber. The camera often peeks into his draining water bottle, ticking down the moments through dehydration.

The moment comes a few days into his stay with the rock when he realizes he should have told someone he where he was going. This happened through acting out a game show for his entertainment. His light bulb moment occurs when he looks into the camcorder and utters a humorous yet saddened, “oops.”

When it came time to cut the arm away the camera did not. Boyle kept a focus on the arm as Franco dug into the nerves and tendons. Snappy editing between the arm hacking and Franco’s terror pained bloodied face, fixed with the sound twang of wire was used to emphasize a pain only imagined, but definitely felt by the audible rustling and unease of the audience. At this point in the film the relationship with the character was so close and uncomfortably personal that I felt I had just sawed my own limb off. I checked my forearm and found it still attached, my hand clutching my notebook.

Franco’s portrayal of the trapped hiker is fantastic in a realized excellence. He captures a romantic humanity within the character. Through Franco’s ability, Ralston’s independence that kept him alone, and his will to survive that made him dream determinately, were remarkably caught. With the grit of his teeth through the grit of the dirt, James Franco is cemented as a great actor.  Franco’s performance in the film made me forget about having to use the restroom entirely, despite all the water references and the fact that he drank his own urine in one scene of desperation. Now that’s acting.  That’s how good Franco was.

127 hours depicts the human nature with a torrid and beautiful momentum. The story created a superhuman and brought him down to his most basic human element, the need to do what it takes, the need to survive.

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