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Between The Sword and The Wall
127 Hours (DVD)
Member Name: Starlight81
127 Hours (DVD)
Advantages: Franco's performance; stunning scenery; length; soundtrack
Disadvantages: Slightly boring for about 15 minutes in the middle
Going into this, I was gearing myself up for some pretty horrific scenes, for the reasons given above, but actually the whole thing was surprisingly well done, with the one horror scene nicely down-played.
The film is based on the autobiographical book (Between a Rock and a Hard Place) by Aron Ralston, and according to him, the film is 'as close to a documentary as you can get, while still being a drama.' I haven't read the book, but people who have say that the on-screen version sticks almost completely to the narrative of the original story.
The story is that Aron loves the great outdoors: canyoning, climbing and mountain biking, and one fateful weekend he decides to go out on his own to somewhere near Canyonlands National Park, in Utah, for a weekend of solitary adventure. Crucially, he doesn't tell anyone where he's going, and when a large rock lands on his arm while he's in a deep canyon, he knows no one is going to come and rescue him.
The next few days (roughly 127 hours, I suppose!) are dedicated to trying to move the boulder himself (it eventually took 13 men and a crane to move it), trying to conserve as much of his limited water supply as possible and thinking back over memories from his childhood and the immediate past.
However, after 5 days of being stuck in the canyon with his arm trapped 'between a rock and a hard place,' and his choice of options in much the same state, Aron is forced to take drastic action to ensure he's rescued.
As I said, I was pleasantly surprised by this film. For one thing, I had been wondering beforehand how on earth a film which is mostly about a man standing in a canyon with his arm trapped would be at all exciting. Well, for starters, in the build-up to this main scenario the soundtrack is excellent and the cinematography is breathtaking. The aerial shots of the National Park practically make you want to book a flight out there as soon as the film has finished- even despite what occurs later on.
The music really helps to set the scene, since it's a big part of Ralston's life and he was listening to music both in the car on the way there and whilst on his bike on arrival. Somehow the choice of soundtrack, combined with the shots of the scenery and him skipping like a goat from rock to rock, really helps you to understand what it is Ralston loves so much about the great outdoors and his solo adventures.
Some of the choices of camera shots and angles are also quite original and add to the overall effect e.g. when the screen splits into three vertical strips and a different scene plays out on each, or when Ralston trying to squeeze the last drop from his bottle is filmed from inside the bottle.
However, I have to say that the real show stealer is James Franco, who plays Ralston. Up to now I've only really seen him playing a series of supporting characters, from Spiderman's nemesis to Harvey Milk's lover. While he gain insights into his talent with him in these roles, 127 hours really gives him an opportunity to take centre stage, and he handles the limelight brilliantly. For most of the 90 minutes he's the only one on camera, yet I never really noticed this until I thought about it afterwards, so well does he hold the attention of the audience. He's so convincing in his portrayal of Ralston's plight that you almost forget it wasn't him it happened to in reality. No wonder he's coming up against Colin Firth for the Best Actor award at the Oscars this week.
The one negative I have to comment on is that somewhere around the middle of the film, there's about fifteen minutes of flashback that does become quite tedious. It would have been nice if they'd cut this short a little bit and added 15 minutes or so onto the end instead, to show what happened after he was rescued e.g. his reunion with his family or his arrival at the hospital. Still, there are some directors I can think of who wouldn't have been content to leave this film at a sensible 90 minutes long, and we've got to be grateful to Boyle for that, at least.
Summary: Definitely recommended