127 Hours

28 02 2011

THERE IS NO FORCE STRONGER THAN THE WILL TO LIVE

After a limited release in the United States, 127 Hours finally made its way to Kelowna theatres this weekend. Based on the true story of rock-climber Aron Ralston, 127 Hours is an inspiring statement on the limits of the human body and mind.

While hiking in the rocky outskirts of Moab, Utah, Aron suddenly falls into a crevasse and pins his arm under a boulder. Since Aron’s story was so well-publicized, many audience members will already know the outcome.

Surprisingly, knowing the ending does little to diminish the story. In a movie called ‘127 Hours’, everybody knows that Aron is not going to escape in his first attempts to move the rock. Regardless, we watch with morbid fascination as Aron struggles with hunger, thirst, boredom and pain for over five days. Since Aron told nobody where he was going, the situation seems hopeless.

While his fall leaves him physically incapacitated, his mental strength never fails. The hours of solitude at the bottom of Blue John Canyon lead to deep personal reflection.

Aron is forced to confront the fact that, having pushed away his family for a number of years, they may never know the story of their son’s disappearance. At a deeper level, this movie is about the importance of maintaining family relations. What would be the last words to your family if you disappeared today?

This movie is driven by the Oscar-nominated performance of James Franco. The camera is always focused on him, both when he is pinned at the bottom of the canyon and in his hazy flashbacks. Many actors would fall short under this sort of scrutiny, but Franco carries the movie on his shoulders and, accordingly, gets an Oscar nomination for Best Actor in a Leading Role.

Director Danny Boyle and composer A.R. Rahman, both of whom gained fame from Slumdog Millionaire, are also nominated for Oscars for their direction and original musical score, respectively.

Uh oh

Boyle does an extraordinary job of keeping the scenery fresh and interesting, despite the fact that so much of the movie takes place in a narrow crevasse. Meanwhile, Rahman’s musical score perfectly accentuates the tense moments of the movie, and also leads us to join in Aron’s enthusiasm during the uplifting scenes.

While I would have appreciated a greater investigation of Aron’s back story, I suspect this was left intentionally vague. There are several scenes where Aron reminisces about an unnamed girl, or the numerous relatives he has lost contact with. However, the audience is given little guidance beyond that.

Even if you know the ending, 127 Hours is a must-see. I suspect it will win at least a few Academy Awards. At one point, Aron describes the rock as having been waiting for him his entire life. Like Aron, we’ve been expecting a feature film on this incident ever since the story first broke, and our wait has been rewarded with a unique, thought-provoking movie which reinforces the brevity of human existence.