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127 Thumbs Up From Me...
127 Hours (DVD)
Member Name: Drewster_Rooster
127 Hours (DVD)
Advantages: Acting, Setting, Cinematography, Direction, Soundtrack
Disadvantages: None apart from *that* scene...
A film only review of 127 hours, the Region 2 DVD release is scheduled for June 2011 but if you can't wait until then there are imported copies available from amazon and other on-line retailers. Please be aware that this review reveals the ending of the film and whilst this could be considered a spoiler to some people the film is based on the real life experience Aron Ralston went through back in 2003 when this incident occurred and has been reported in the press and in interviews with the man himself.
Aron Ralston a thrill-seeking adventurer is making plans for a weekend of exploration in the remote Utah National Park, ensuring he has everything he needs he packs his backpack and sets off for a couple of days of adventure and sightseeing. He's having the time of his life, at one with nature and comfortable in his surroundings he even gets lucky and gets to spend a little time with two girls who are exploring the same area and when it's time to say goodbye they invite Aaron to join them later at a house-party they are attending. Pleased with the days events Aron and the girls part company and he sets off in the direction of his waiting bike, he doesn't make it that far though after he wrong-foots himself and ends up falling down a gap between two of the many hundreds of rock walls that make up the barren landscape. A little bit battered and bruised but not badly injured Aron tries to make sense of his surroundings and attempts to make his escape however things are about to go from bad to worse as Aron realises that his hand is trapped between the wall of the cave and a rock and no matter how hard he tries he just can't free himself...
With no chance of anyone rescuing him and only a dwindling supply of water Aron will have to make some tough choices but how far will he go to gain his freedom?...The film has the answers but dare you find them out for yourself?
===Caught between a rock and a hard place===
I'd heard so much about this film before seeing it that when I did finally get round to watching it I wondered if it would live up to my expectations. The film's director Danny Boyle is a favourite of mine anyway and has in the past delivered a couple of films which I loved; Trainspotting and 28 days later, so when I heard that he was directing 127 hours I knew it was a film I had to see. I was unfamiliar with Aron Ralstons story but soon found out about his experience after a quick look on-line and I was curious as to how his story could be made into a film, after all the experience, as harrowing as it undoubtedly was, could be summed up in just a few words - 'man gets his arm caught, man cuts own arm off to escape' - and whilst I realise I am over simplifying his predicament in that last sentence that is what happened to the adventurer back in 2003.
Typically for Boyle though he has taken the experience Ralston went through and carefully created a thrilling and thought provoking film from it, many people have commented saying it was 'life affirming' and 'Inspirational' and you know something? I thought it was too.
It has plenty going for it and is helped in no small way by the star of the film, James Franco. I associate this good looking Hollywood actor with his role as Harry Osborn in the Spiderman franchise so his casting here was as surprise to me, I don't tend to watch films for their stars and have no actor or actress who I actively follow but in Spiderman I thought Franco was a little wooden and disjointed. In 127 hours he shines, the film is completely reliant on his performance and he delivers a faultless portrayal covering the facets of Ralstons personality perfectly. In the early scenes we see how cocky Aron is, ever so slightly arrogant and dismissive of those around him he is a selfish character who gets by on his charm and looks. He's not a bad man, just overly confident and has that air of invincibility many have at that age when they are young and cocksure. As the film progresses and the incident occurs the gravity of the situation hits home and the realisation this this is a very bad situation to be in knocks Arons self belief and confidence. Franco is excellent in these scenes and plays them out with real emotion, he goes through despair, denial and finally acceptance that he will most likely die until a flickering thought nags away at him that he might just be able to escape should he be prepared to do something _very_ drastic.
Before I get to the ending which has been the focus of much discussion I want to mention the cinematography and the films direction by Danny Boyle as these are both magnificent and breathtaking to see on screen. Wide open expanses of orange rocky landscapes fill the screen against a bright blue cloudless sky, the colour palette on the film can only be described as beautiful and setting the film in the deserted Utah plains gave the opportunity to fully exploit the natural wonder of this stunning location. Using wide shots where nothing can be seen other than the landscape and overhead tracking shots of rocky terrain allows you to get a feel of the scale of the location and seeing a single figure in the middle of all this natural beauty really brings home the isolation that the character must feel when he finds himself trapped. Boyle uses everything to his advantage here and as impressive James Franco is the scenery and settings are equally as good.
The soundtrack too is worth mentioning, Danny Boyle always includes some fabulous music in his films and 127 Hours is no exception, there is a surprising mix of adrenaline fuelled rock songs countered with gentle and haunting melodies and these really help to define and give the film an epic feel. Boyle always impresses me with his visionary outlook on things and I do like how he mixes the genres of music, he stands out to me as being 'different' and sometimes 'different' produces outstanding results, 127 hours is a fine example of this.
For a film which runs for an hour and a half you may wonder how Boyle can fill the running time, after all, setting up the accident and resolving it at the end takes up around 40 minutes so what happens in between? The 127 hours the films title refers to is the amount of time Ralston is actually trapped and the film covers this time spent by really focusing on the character. We learn about some parts of his life through flashbacks and fantasies, he talks to himself and to his camcorder acting out scenarios in his mind and repeating significant conversations he had in the past. This gives James Franco the opportunity to sell the character to us and in doing so we do become emotionally attached to him, we see him become delusional and frantic at times and then quiet and withdrawn, the realisation that his water supply is running out and knowing what will happen when it does plays heavily on his mind and when the time comes for Ralston to attempt his escape the pervading sense of dread is almost palpable.
===(Spoiler alert - avoid this section if you don't want to know the ending)===
For me as a viewer knowing that at some point he is going to attempt to free himself gave the film a sense of inevitability, it didn't spoil it for me knowing that he was about to cut his arm off and as hardened as I am to scenes of blood and gore I have to admit to finding this a _very_ difficult sequence to watch. Horror film violence is different, it's completely over the top and gore and splatter have become so outlandish that its inclusion no longer gets to me. Surprisingly then a ten minute scene in 127 hours absolutely horrified me and I even had to turn the sound off and half watch those scenes out of the corner of my eye - something that I haven't had to do since I first started watching horror films twenty-odd years ago. The fact that I cared about the character made it so difficult to see, the pain was portrayed _so_ realistically that it felt real and even now typing this I am cringing when I remember a particularly nasty moment when Ralston had to cut through a tendon in his arm to be finally free. Honestly, it's horrific. Eye wateringly gruesome, vividly shot in high quality detail and unflinchingly presented I don't know how anyone could sit through that part and not wince, I was glad when it was over I have to say and I thought I could watch anything. J-Horror? no problems, A Serbian Film? easy peasy. 127 hours? Oh. My. God, no...
Anyway, that aside the film as a whole is magnificent. A compelling story fabulously presented and acted and something that captivated me and held my interest for the full 90 minutes. Everything about it is good and it is a film I would whole-heatedly recommend even if some parts make for incredibly uncomfortable viewing. I don't know what extras will be on the Region 2 DVD release when it comes out in June so this has been a film only review and as far as my rating is concerned it should come as no surprise that I'm giving it a perfect 5 star score. 127 hours has been one of the best films I have seen in a long time and more than lived up to my expectations.
Recommended. Buy it when it becomes available, I will be...
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Summary: Lives up to the Hype...