A pulsating, thriving testament to the human spirit digs down deep to the most desperate of situations in Danny Boyle’s latest film, “127 Hours.”
Based on the true story of Aron Ralston, the adventurer who in May 2003 was hiking solo in Blue John Canyon, Utah when an 800-pound boulder fell and pinned his forearm, “127 Hours” follows the cocky hiker into the utmost desperate moment in which could happen to anyone.
Spoiler: he lives by self-amputating his forearm. And it’s not pretty.
With the camera angles, out-of-focus shots and quick transitions that Boyle is known for, “127 Hours” starts off with fast and electric music and bright, colorful shots of busy human life. It is a flourishing scene of people, bursting with life and connected as one that lead in to Ralston (played by James Franco) at his apartment as he scrambles to get ready for his next audacious trip. He ignores his mother’s phone call as he fills up his Nalgene; acts he wouldn’t know would be so monumental later.
Ralston drives fast to his destination, driven by the pumping music, and arrives in the dead of night to the trailhead. In the morning, he sets out on his bike under the blazing Utah sun, rocking out to the music in his headphones. His thirst for life is evident as he pedals fast and performs skillful tricks on the slick rocks and dusty trails, presumably smiling under his bandit-style bandana the whole time. He crashes once but gets right back up after laughing at himself.
He runs into civilization when he sees two female hikers (Amber Tamblyn and Kate Mara) and self-assuredly shows them the way. The scenes following with the three hikers become a little distracted from the plot when they find a water hole and go swimming. But the theme of water further develops.
When the trio split off, Ralston’s hubris leads him to skip and jump around over crevasses in the rocks. He takes a fateful slip and seals his fate for the next 127 hours (about five days) while the boulder that will test his willpower falls into place.
Through Franco’s performance, the audience feels the utter shock and speechlessness that Ralston experiences when he realizes what has happened. From then on, the audience is hooked into an emotional and raw performance of the ultimate man v. nature scenario.
True to the real events, Ralston is seen chalking his name, birth date and assumed death date into the rock wall in front of him. Desperate situations call for him to drink his own urine (made humorous, which eases discomfort) and record a goodbye speech to his parents on his handheld camcorder.
Through his five days pinned in the crevasse, the audience experiences the delusions and dreams that float in and out of Ralston’s consciousness. At times it is confusing what really is happening to Ralston, but it clears up eventually. Visions of his family and girlfriend are ever-present and a certain premonition helps to drive him to do the seemingly impossible.
Blood and bone are not disguised as Ralston drives a cheap multi-tool into his broken forearm. And it gets a little messy.
But Ralston’s test doesn’t stop there. He must still repel himself down a different rock wall and find his way out of the canyon.
Instead of framing the film in a documentary style, Boyle uses his own elements to intensify the audience’s interest of a one-man performance. Although sometimes distracting, these quick-paced and dream-like elements make the story more artistic and less cut-and-dry.
It is hard not to stand up and cheer for the sheer superhuman act Ralston performed and Franco reenacted so vividly. But please, don’t try it at home.
Check back with the CU Independent on Friday for an interview with Aron Ralston.
Contact CU Independent Entertainment Editor Taylor Coughlin at Taylor.email@example.com.