It might surprise you that Danny Boyle’s latest film 127 Hours has a message suitable for this holiday season–beyond the suggestion to cut off your own arm to escape the
death trap family dinner table.
Aron Ralston is the modern man, living in the fetid confines of the city and yearning for the open expanses of freedom awaiting him in the wilderness. He bikes fast, walks fast, and talks fast, documenting his conquests with his CD player blasting. It’s only when nature decides to use a boulder to slow down this Übermensch that he finally takes the time to look around and within.
Considering the nature of this tale, there isn’t much to discuss in terms of plot points; the film is largely buttressed by James Franco’s portrayal of Ralston. It may sound silly to say, “He does a fine job acting like he’s stuck under a rock,” but the audience would be in an equivalent amount of pain if he weren’t acting well. The uncertainty, fear, frustration, and rebellious “fuck this, I’m going to live” attitude hits audiences where it counts thanks to his performance.
With Franco leading the charge, it’s up to Danny Boyle and his editor Jon Harris to provide the actor with a faithful steed. Boyle’s camera angles highlight how inspired style can serve the purposes of story, and without Harris’ manic split-screen windows (among other touches), much could be lost in translation.
The film is superb, but some thematic elements feel scattershot; friend Ben Creech described certain revelations by Mr. Ralston as “punches to the chest,” rather than a gathering avalanche awaiting release at the film’s climax. This does not detract from another mini-climax that takes place in the denouement, which ultimately makes this one of Boyle’s best (Sunshine, 28 Days Later in the top).
So 127 Hours still brings the goods and you’ll be surprised with how quickly the time flies. SPOILERS for real life: Yes, the amputation scene is pretty graphic (more due to shrieking audio cues and jarring edits than actual blood), but it’s nothing worth fainting or having seizures over. More to the point, the film isn’t really about gruesomeness, but rather concerns the will to live and the importance of not forgetting the Socrates quote, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Who knows when our number is up? The last thing we want to leave behind is a life of regrets.