127 Hours (2010)
That will to survive sure is something else.
127 Hours is the story of one Aron Ralston: an engineer with a life-long passion for the great outdoors who heads out on a solo run in the canyons of Utah in 2003 without telling anyone where he was going or when he’d be back. Fate being the cruel bitch that it is, he climbs down a crevasse and accidentally shakes loose a boulder the size of a small planet which falls down with him and completely crushes his right forearm against a rock wall. Stuck in the middle of nowhere, 18 miles away from his car and with no chance of a rescue party coming to find him, Aron goes five days surviving on the bare minimum until he eventually bites the bullet, cuts off his own arm with a dull knife that you could barely cut butter with and hoofs it back to civilization.
And since he’s just that extreme, he’s still climbing and breaking records to this day with a fancy new icepick prosthesis where his arm used to be. Talk about earning your Man Card.
So a number of things came to mind when I first heard about this movie:
1. It’s the new joint by Danny Boyle, so therefore it will probably be awesome. Like, 13 dollars awesome.
2. Not that I even need another reason, but it’s also about Aron Ralston and his flat-out insane story of survival, and that’s a story I am all about.
And, 3. Raltson gets trapped, he’s in there by himself for five days, he cuts off his arm, then he goes home…how is this movie 94 minutes long and how will it avoid being a snoozefest?
And now we backtrack to Danny Boyle, because without him, there’s a distinct chance this baby could have bombed. From the frenetic, seemingly unrelated opening credits to the semi-Indian soundtrack that plays throughout the whole movie, it’s easy to see that Boyle is still lingering in his Slumdog period. And that’s fine, that’s great, that’s why he won the Oscar and that’s the very reason he manages to make this story of a guy and his boulder as wild and intense as anything else he’s put out there. It’s a movie about an adrenaline junkie and it looks like it was filmed by one too. Whether it’s Ralston hauling ass down the side of a mountain on a bike or just him daydreaming about his past, future and present, it’s always moving, it’s always fluid, and even at its craziest, Boyle is always in control and he truly knows a thing or two about how to make a pretty movie.
Now, I haven’t read Ralston’s account of what happened or what was going through his head, but the thing you don’t account for before seeing the movie is what would actually go through your head if you were in a situation like that for 127-FREAKING-HOURS!? You’ve got one-man talk shows, reminiscing on relationships treasured and loves lost, fantasies of escape and borderline wet dreams about the Gatorade sitting your trunk among other things. As a passive observer, you learn a lot about Ralston from what goes on in his head, how he exhausts every last conceivable option to escape and how he bides his time, and what might be the most amazing thing is that it all goes by in a flash. Didn’t check my watch once, doubt anyone else did either. Farthest thing from a snoozefest you’ll see all year.
But as great as Boyle is and always has been for all the said reasons, the bottom line is that this is about Ralston.
Walking out of the theater, I was having a lot of trouble figuring out the right words to describe this man. My gut was leaning towards “awesome” and “badass,” but then my good buddy Fred chimed in and asked me to explain my reasoning for why it was starting to sound like I wanted to marry the guy. I tried to come up with some sort of logic behind all my gushing, but long story short, as “awesome” and “badass” as Ralston might be in a conversation about “real men”, those two words aren’t exactly fitting for the circumstances he was placed in. “Epic” and “unreal” might be more on the right track, because truth be told, if I were in his shoes and my two options were either chiseling through my arm or dying, there is no option. Sitting in front of your computer and wondering if you could cut your own arm off to stay alive is one thing, but I think that if the situation presented itself, you’d get awfully comfortable with the idea of writing lefty.
Then again, I’ll probably never be in his shoes and that’s why his story is so incredible to hear. Getting trapped like that was a one-in-a-gazillion chance, and while I like to think I would do the same thing he did, I can only guess whereas he’s living proof.
And James Franco does a damn good job playing him. Big fan of Franco’s to begin with and he just plays Ralston very naturally. Very full of life, very easy to like and you buy what he’s feeling no matter what kind of emotional state he’s in. Always helps to have a lot of funny, genuine dialogue to work with, but wouldn’t be surprised if he got an Oscar nod for this. Definitely one of the more sought-after roles of 2010.
In the words of Ralston after taking in the gravity of the wildly effed up situation he found himself in, “This is insane.” I was leaning towards giving this an 8 because I don’t know if I could see myself sitting through it a second time, but not since Touching the Void (see that if you haven’t) has mankind been treated to such an unbelievable testament of hope and perseverance through film. Ralston is the kind of guy who would get a high-ten from The Jigsaw Killer, a guy who makes Bear Grylls look like a door-to-door Girl Scout (nothing against all you proud Brownies out there, but you know what I mean), and the fact that he came out of his living nightmare by his own doing is more than enough to bump this trip up to a 9. God, can’t even begin to imagine what kind of mental state you have to psyche yourself into in order to go through with an operation like that.
And, yeah, the amputation is brutal to the point where I still get a shiver whenever I flex my right arm, but as usual, it’s just a movie, feel free to close your eyes. If it were a documentary, I’d probably be hurling in the aisles too, but you’re tough, you can handle it.