Film Review – 127 Hours

127 Hours (MA)

Directed by: Danny Boyle

Starring: James Franco, Amber Tamblyn, Kate Mara

Four and a half stars

Review by: Julian Wright

With Australia’s release date of 127 Hours lagging so far behind the rest of the world, it seems redundant to write about something everyone has known or heard about for several months. I am talking about that scene. While Catfish promoters urged us not to reveal its twist, that scene in 127 Hours is quickly becoming cinema lore. It is the moment when trapped mountain climber and thrill seeker Aron Ralston has to hack off his arm with a blunt knife to survive.

Watching that scene turned out to be one of the most fascinating experiences I have had in cinema. As Aron dug that knife into his skin and fiddled with tendons, the entire audience shifted in their seats, covered their eyes, blocked their ears and groaned in disbelief even though we all knew it was coming. It was something that got a uniform reaction from its audience in unison. I had only seen this collective response  in screenings of the heinous The Room in which everyone was encouraged to throw spoons at the screen.

But 127 Hours is more than just that scene. We know it has been nominated for six Oscars including Best Film and Best Actor. So after Aussies sat around listening to everyone else talk about that scene and discuss whether or not the film deserved its nominations, we finally get to see it for ourselves.

Adventurer Aron Ralston (James Franco) ignores a phone call from his mother, packs a backpack and heads out to Moab, Utah to go biking, hiking and canyoneering alone. He is a free spirit and lives life to the extreme. He even relishes a bicycle stack by pulling out his camera and documenting it as he lays in a heap on his bike.

Along his travels he meets a pair of lost beauties Kristi (Kate Mara) and Megan (Amber Tamblyn) and shows them where they need to go and also a thing or two about being adventurous. Not long after they separate, Aron takes another spill as a boulder in a canyon becomes loose and falls and he finds his right arm wedged between the rock and the wall of the canyon. For the next 127 hours, Aron rations his limited water and food, tries to keep his mind focused, attempts to move the boulder and documents his experience.

You might think that by director Boyle getting us to that canyon as quickly as possible would mean limiting ways in which to relay exposition (as limited as it would be), particularly in a way that isn’t cliched or boring. But he has come up with genius flashbacks, images and mirages that fill in the gaps for us and elevates Aron from a one dimensional character.

And it is the simple things that give us insight into Aron’s psyche. While trapped in the canyon, he waits for that 10 minutes of sunlight each morning and how good it feels on his foot. A man that goes through life with no regrets suddenly realised how his actions have put him in this spot, where no one knows where he is. Franco’s performance, in which the realisation slowly surfaces, is stunning to watch.

And that inevitable scene is, surprisingly, not gratuitous. Instead, it is inspiring. Not that you will want to run out and chop your arm off after seeing this film, but just Aron’s sheer determination and will to live is impressive. This fight for survival movie is everything Sanctum wishes it was. Without the gimmick of 3D or a huge Hollywood name attached, 127 Hours achieves so much more in the way of characterisation and storytelling. I would give my right arm to see this excellent film again.

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