Film review – 127 Hours

21 February 2011

Written by: Lawrie Zion

Danny Boyle has always fascinated me. Being an avid fan of the 90s cult hit Trainspotting, I’ve always felt that he has a knack for pushing the boundaries and creating an onscreen world that at times seems so real it can overwhelm your senses. His latest venture 127 Hours is no exception – talk about leaving a person stressed and short of breath!

The film tells the true story of mountain climber Aron Ralston, whom in April 2003 was pinned in a crack by a boulder for six days at Bluejohn Canyon, Utah. The only way he escaped was by cutting off his own arm. The film’s opening is characteristically Boyle with montages galore and a soundtrack that immediately becomes the heartbeat for the story. Shots of hundreds of people dominate the screen alluding to Ralston’s upcoming loneliness, and when he falls into his predicament the stage is set for an epic struggle of mind and body.

Playing Ralston’s character is actor James Franco (better known perhaps for his role as Harry Osborn in Spiderman).  His performance, for which he has been nominated for an Academy Award, makes the film come to life. Being more or less the only character, Franco truly acts as a man possessed with determination – even against the forces of nature, the torture of loneliness and numerous failures at escape.

Another striking feature about 127 Hours is the enormous vastness of the locations and how Boyle manages to create an intense sense of urgency and stress through the utter silence of the canyon wasteland. Juxtaposed against a hard-hitting soundtrack, the quiet of the landscape appears quite harmless until Ralston falls and becomes trapped. He seems so small that you just can’t help but feel for him as he struggles to free himself from his predicament. Some scenes were so upsetting I had to remind myself I was watching a movie and not some sick live action.

My queasiness continued well into the goriest scene of the film, where Ralston breaks and cuts off his own arm with a switch blade. It is in this scene that Boyle triumphs at filming the human condition, showing the utter desperation that some survivors can feel in life-threatening situations. It definitely takes the cake for disgusting, vomit-inducing non-reality. I forced myself to watch it, but through my fingers (not that they were much help).

Boyle constantly laces his aesthetic style with shock treatment. His fondness for crazy camera angles, liquids being sucked through tubes and character narration all feature in 127 Hours. Boyle has made a beautifully-shot story, but the ordeal does leave you a tad worse for wear. Not everyone can deal with such realistic depictions of gore.  But if you think you can stomach it, see it.

Radhika Chopra is a Bachelor of Journalism student at La Trobe University and has just joined the upstart editorial team.

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