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127 Hours

“Coyote Ugly”

Though I wouldn’t recommend watching “127 Hours” on a full stomach, Danny Boyle’s first film since winning an Oscar for “Slumdog Millionaire” is a gripping and strangely funny drama that proves that if fate decrees it’s not your time, you’re not going to die, no matter the circumstances.  James Franco’s gallows humor makes the most gruesome moments tolerable as you want him to do whatever it takes to survive.

Aron Ralston (Franco) enjoys his loner status.  He rarely returns parents’ phone calls, has isolated himself from his girlfriend, and his idea of a great weekend is hiking through a remote location alone.  All that bites him in the ass when a large boulder entraps him in a gorge and no one knows he’s missing.  The minutes become hours become days as his hand, trapped between the rock and cave, turns purple.  Aron’s food becomes scarce and he relies on whatever liquids are available just to live.  With no chance of freedom, Aron crosses the boundaries of propriety and pain to escape in one piece (well even that is negotiable).

Boyle takes a true story and infuses it with a very honest approach to humanity’s precariousness and its perseverance.  Knowing that the graphic details would be harrowing, Boyle smartly keeps the film at a palpable running time (95 minutes) and juxtaposes Aron’s seclusion to an imagination to keep him company. 

movie_reviews_by_jonasBoyle and Simon Beaufoy’s script deals with metaphysics without ever weighing the story down and focuses on grotesqueries, without losing its audience.  The devil is in the details.  Early on, Aron casually mentions to two girls he meets on the path that he is an engineer.  Once trapped, he acts exactly as an engineer would, laying all his tools out on his rock to analyze which would be most handy.  Even in the most panicked moment, he studies his resources and tracks his progress via camcorder, as a project manager would.  It brings a realism to the tale and reminds us this is a real person, not just a made-up character.

The film would only work with a compelling actor who audiences care to spend the time locked with in a tiny claustrophobic space. Franco, with that permanent devilish grin and twinkle in his eye has the charm necessary to keep audiences rapt even when squirming in their seat. Passing the time with sexual fantasies, self-mocking talk show babble or imagining different escape routes, Franco is mesmerizing, funny and touching as he prepares for death in the final hours. Knowing that this is based on non-fiction written by Aron (therefore, he obviously survives the ordeal) makes the agonizing time more bearable for us as we grow to like him more and more.
“127 Hours” is not the sort of film I’d want to see again, but I’m glad I spent the evening with a true champion.
 Grade: A


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