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Film Review: 127 Hours

Apr 08, 2011 04:04AM ● By Wendy Sipple

127 Hours tells the true life story of Aron Ralston’s horrific hiking accident where he is forced to amputate his arm with a dull knife to escape certain death. If that is not enough, he then had to hike out of a cavern, repel down a mountain and hike in extremely hot weather back to his truck, all while losing blood and under extreme dehydration. It’s a tale that will pique everyone’s curiosity because we ask ourselves, "Could I have done the same thing?"

The movie, based off Ralston’s book, sticks only to Ralston’s point of view so we are not privy to the efforts by his mother to find him. Ralston didn’t do himself any favors by not telling anyone where he was going. By sticking to Ralston’s point of a view, the bulk of the film was relegated to showing a man pinned by a large boulder. To make the movie interesting for an extended period of time while having its only character in the same spot, with no one to converse with, or really not a whole lot to do is a huge challenge. Unfortunately I don’t feel they quite succeeded in their efforts.

Director Danny Boyle has taken on challenging movies in the past with great success. His most noteworthy film is Slumdog Millionaire, however I thought his smaller films such as Sunshine, Trainspotting, and even 28 Days Later were all more interesting movies. Here Boyle tries to bring the audience into the deteriorating psyche of Ralston as he suffers from delirium due to lack of water and food. He does this with strange edits and cuts, and by mixing the lighting and focus, but it all feels forced. It also goes on a bit too long, and then when Ralston finally frees himself his escape from the canyon seems a bit too rushed.

That leads me to perhaps my biggest complaint:  the film offered up nothing after his rescue but a quick montage, and a few sentences glossing over Ralston’s life after his escape from death. So without anything more, the movie feels shallow. Its message is nothing more than a man’s tale of survival without any real character arch. This was hammered home even more after viewing the Dateline feature on him where Ralston himself took the camera crew on a tour of his journey. This television show contained interviews with his mother and explored the story from multiple angles. This one hour special was far more interesting than anything 127 Hours offers. And that’s a trap that a lot of biographical films fall into -- they tend to narrow their focus so much that they lose the message along the way.

127 Hours does have a lot right with it, not the least of which is James Franco’s performance. He does an excellent job in the movie. There are a few scenes in the movie that are expertly executed. I thought they handled the amputation scene as well as they could while trying to adhere to the exact account Ralston gives. This includes breaking both bones in his arms before beginning the grisly cutting of the flesh. This scene is not for the squeamish and is more effective than a horror movie because we know this really happened.

Overall 127 Hours is interesting but moves a little too slow. I wished they had attempted to give us something more than a straight survival movie. I would have been interested to see Ralston before and after in his home element giving us an idea of how the incident changed him. The movie could have benefited from actually having a voice over by Ralston himself, much like another tale of survival movie, Touching the Void. I do applaud the ambitiousness of the film makers, but when you attempt a feat with a high degree of difficulty sometimes you don’t quite stick the landing, and I think that’s the case with 127 Hours. If you are a fan of survival films, 127 Hours will be worth your time.

FILMS LIKE 127 HOURS – Touching the Void, K2 and Castaway



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Justin Buettner is Style's resident movie dude! How did he get this role? Well, he graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a Bachelor of Arts in film Production and a duel minor in Animation and Business with an emphasis in the entertainment field. He later went on to work on several independent films in various key roles including writer and later worked in the special effects field as a motion capture artist. He has since relocated to the Sacramento area with his family and continues writing for small independent films in addition to his movie reviews for Style Magazine.