Starring: James Franco, Amber Tamblyn, Kate Mara, Clémence Poésy, Treat Williams and Kate Burton.
Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox
Runtime: 90 mins. Reviewed in Nov 2011
Based on Ralston’s own account of his ordeal, Between a Rock and a Hard Place, James Franco delivers a powerful, high-octane performance as the young canyoneer who left the city on a Friday in April 2003 to explore the remote landscape and steep canyons which once sheltered Butch Cassidy and his ‘Hole in the Wall’ gang.
With a superabundance of confidence in his preparation and climbing skills, and more than a little hubris, Aron listens to his mother leaving a message on his answering machine without picking up, then sets out for the National Park by car with his trail bike on top without telling anyone where he is going.
Not that the canyon lands are really so remote. Aron is not alone in his passion for risk-taking and adventure, and along the way meets two lost hikers Megan (Amber Tamblyn) and Kristi (Kate Mara), to whom he introduces the exhilarating joy of dropping feet first though narrow canyon walls into a sparkling pool.
But on his own, after a number of tumbles which he brushes off as par for the course, Aron falls without warning into a slot canyon which is narrow and steep. Rallying quickly in the tight space, he attempts to extricate his hand from a fallen boulder only to discover that it is tightly wedged. Thus begins Aron’s descent into an ordeal that challenges not only his physical skills but his mental and spiritual resilience.
In Slumdog Millionaire Boyle told a tale of individual courage and survival against the background of Mumbai’s teeming millions. 127 Hours pays a similar homage to strength of character and the will to survive but in a much more introverted space, with the added miracle that Boyle’s accomplished storytelling skills succeeds in making the film so riveting and exciting.
127 Hours begins at a brisk pace, and once in the spectacular desert landscape the film could be read as an ad for Gatorade or a travel documentary. But pinned against his will in the slot canyon, Boyle’s documentary-style becomes as intimate as a home-video or Facebook entry.
In real life, Ralston used a video-cam to record messages to his family, insights into his behaviour and opportunities missed, that come to him only when faced with the possibility of his death. Boyle exploits the confessional nature of this new media to powerful affect, and Franco transmits Ralston’s fierce determination to live and change his ways with great believability.
Boyle’s cinematic flair in telling Ralston’s tale makes 127 Hours a mini-masterpiece, but viewers should be aware that the film’s graphic realism at times might make viewing difficult for some.
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