"I'm in pretty deep doodoo here."
I sat through 127 HOURS, every once in a while subconsciously grabbing at a bottle of water, taking a sip when I did so choose. Drinking is a luxury that we often forget about. If we are thirsty, we reach for sustenance. Simple as that. Danny Boyle didn't set out to make a film about taking things for granted, but a byproduct of his travails certainly crushes the point home.
The story follows one fateful day in the life of Aron Ralston, the now famous mountain climber/general outdoorsman. The day was April 26th 2003: Aron wakes up early, packs his bag, loads his SUV. A distressing sight happens early when he reaches for supplies, his fingers narrowly missing his Swiss army knife. The camera lingers for a few seconds, hinting at the consequences this omission will cause.
Aron's adventure starts out well enough. A short drive leads to a bike ride which leads to a hike. He meets Kristi (Kate Mara) and Megan (Amber Tamblyn): two lost hikers who become a reprieve to the foreboded outcome. Aron's personality is that of a little kid; he seems to be experiencing everything for the first time. The three share a few hours exploring rock faces and secret lagoons. They later say their goodbyes as Aron bounds away, inching closer to his date with the fated boulder.
We know the outcome by now. While traversing a path, Ralston makes an ill-advised decision. 127 HOURS comes from the amount of time he spent with his right forearm pinned underneath a dislodged stone. For more than five days he survived solely on a few hundred milliliters of water and what looked to be a chicken burrito. The much discussed amputation is visceral, yet never excessive. The entire scene lasts no longer than sixty seconds, but due to the nature of the proceeding it affects us profoundly. It's funny how verifiable accounts can alter someone's degree of tolerance. Horror movies offer much more blood and gore, but there is almost an obligation to do so. We expect it going in; our minds are attuned to the repercussions. The honesty behind Ralston deliberately breaking his arm (twice), slicing muscle and severing tendons and ligaments with a critically dull blade directs our thoughts to unfeigned and paralyzing areas.
What's enlightening is the experience between his fall and sacrificial escape. Boyle has a style unique to his eye. He creates a surreal adventure through Ralston's deteriorating mind. We are invited to share flashbacks of his life: concise moments of his family and friends, of failed relationships and happier memories frozen in time. An ex-girlfriend (Clémence Poésy) tells him he is doomed to die alone. A sinister assertion indeed. The longer he is trapped, the deeper into his psyche we travel. Ralston is played by James Franco; clearly the role of his life thus far. He is triumphant in navigating the full spectrum of the human condition. Without a doubt, he is the Academy Award frontrunner.
Enthralling to me was how Ralston documented his entire exploit. What began as a chronicle of his trip, morphed into a way to stay sane, as well as a manner to verbalize his last rites to his loved ones. These documentary-like instances provide some of the funniest and insightful times. He is a guest on his own radio show one minute, while the next he apologizes to his mother for not answering the phone before the onset of his getaway. Whether or not Ralston would have been rescued had he left a note, to me is a moot point. Boyle goes out of his way many times to illustrate just how expansive the Utah landscape is. Aron is as small and insignificant as the ants who nibble at his tired flesh.
127 HOURS simply is a film that must be seen. Boyle is a director unlike any other nowadays. He has a rare gift to showcase beauty in the unlikeliest of settings. Franco will floor you with his execution. You will smile and cringe. Your mouth will dry as you grasp for liquid amnesty. This is so much more than a man cutting off his arm.