Friday, November 19, 2010

'127 Hours' -- Movie Takes Intense Look at Man's Quest for Survival

From Others heard the story of rock climber Aron Ralston's days-long ordeal -- he was trapped by a boulder that pinned down his arm -- and winced. Danny Boyle saw a tale of endurance and triumph, a spiritual journey in which a young man comes to terms with the expression "No man is an island."

"127 Hours" is the remarkable film the director of "Slumdog Millionaire" and his "Slumdog" screenwriter (Simon Beaufoy) conjured out of that excruciating tale. It's a tribute to Boyle's filmic flair and the humanity he wears on his sleeve that we can recall how Ralston's 127-hour saga ends and still be stunned and moved by the finale.

James Franco carries this gorgeous picture, giving us a Ralston who's a grinning extreme sports cliché. He works in a mountaineering equipment shop and takes off on solo weekend trips, hurtling across buttes on his mountain bike, exulting in nature and even in the spills he takes along the way. The film's opening minutes, with Ralston narrating his gonzo adventures on his camcorder, show us just how long it takes him to get to the middle of nowhere and how psyched he is to arrive.

On the day of his accident, he stumbles into a couple of cute hikers (Kate Mara and Amber Tamblyn) and disarmingly offers to show them the Blue John Canyon that only he knows. Ralston's open-faced grin advertises a big heart, and Franco effortlessly conveys the guy's innocence and lust for life.

The girls move on after an adventurous side trip (videotaped) to a water hole and after Aron has promised to come to their party later. Then he dashes out of sight. By the time he takes his big tumble, there is nobody within miles. He's going to miss that party.

Boyle and Beaufoy are fascinated by the kid's reaction to his plight. He has taken one calculated risk too many, but he's self-reliant and has all sorts of things in his pack that might help. None do. But he doesn't panic. He even keeps his camcorder diary up to date as he tries this and that, makes sure to hydrate and rests between attempts at self-rescue. He bundles up as best he can overnight and marvels at the way the light at sunrise plays down into the crack where he's stuck. Here's a guy who lives every day as if it might be his last.

But in dreams, flashbacks and hallucinations, Aron remembers the girl (Clemence Poesy) he wouldn't commit to and the mistakes he made with his parents and others. He ponders how his decisions are reflected in what has happened to him. He's a lone wolf who lives for himself, and nobody knows where he is or that he's missing.

Boyle, Beaufoy, Franco and cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle have created a film of breathtaking scenery, awe-inspiring silences and a perilous puzzle. Is this "Into the Wild," where only a trace of Aron will ever be found, or will he find a solution? And will we want to watch it?

It's a tribute to everyone involved that this Man vs. His Wild Self drama remains utterly absorbing and thrilling until the end.


Amusing Bunni said...

It sounds like you really enjoyed this movie, Teresa.
I like James Franco. Have a fun weekend.
I want to go and try to see "Next 3 days, and Harry Potter in the next few days, and then this looks interesting too.

Most Rev. Gregori said...

It is amazing what individuals will do if they really have a strong will to survive.

Woodsterman (Odie) said...

It looks like a keeper.

Maggie@MaggiesNotebook said...

I saw this a couple of weeks ago in LA. I always love James Franco. I thought the movie - everything about it was incredible.

I always like a lot of drama, but I have to say, I had to close my eyes through much of it. It is such a personal movie - you can't help but understand the agony he is going through.

I loved it, so glad I saw it, but couldn't sit through it again.