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Monday, May 23, 2011

127 Hours - Hiker Who Cut His Arm Off - James Franco - Movie Review

Who was the hiker that cut his arm off and they made a movie about it? The hiker who chopped his own limb off is Aron Ralston and he is played by James Franco in the film 127 Hours. This is my review of this film.

Picture yourself in the desperate situation where you either remove an appendage or you die. It is that simple.  For Aron Ralston, there was no choice at all but to survive by amputating his own arm.

That is not meant to be a spoiler.  His fate is well known.  This picture is really about the journey of desperation and torment getting to that dreaded moment.

James Franco plays the very likeable, live in the moment Aron Raltson.  Franco's sinewy build, outdoor attire and smiling, somewhat gaunt face, makes for a very believable and resourceful outdoor enthusiast.

There is not much of a supporting cast, though I very much liked Kate Mara in her brief role as one of a pair of lost hikers that Franco helps guide.  Mara really reminded me way back in my college days of a young, energetic full of life student.  According to Wikipedia, her scene is mostly fictitious but it does make for good cinema and really helps set up Franco's character as the happy go lucky, enigmatic and likable person.

I really enjoyed 127 Hours in the beginning of the film.  The scenery in the Utah desert is simply beautiful.  It truly made me want to explore that area, though I don't consider myself the die hard outdoorsy type.  You could feel the excitement as Franco's character, Aron Ralston, sets out on his own for what you presume is one of hundreds of solo adventures he's had.

The middle of the film, during which he was trapped, felt agonizing long. The 94 minute film seemed to slow down to 127 hours.  Maybe not a bad thing. Out of respect for Ralston, maybe the film is meant to drag on the audience so you too feel his loneliness and frustration.
 Perhaps the most artistic parts of the film, some surreal moments happen on camera. Songs that Ralston can't get out of his head, dreamy reflections on life, hallucinations and moments of sheer mental torment often shown through the view lens of a video camera (Ralston filmed himself during parts of the ordeal).  Much of this part is shot like a documentary (mockumentary) and the whole film has a sort of documentary feel to it.

For the esoteric outdoor film lovers out there, 127 Hours reminded me a great deal of the wonderful documentary / mockumentary "Touching The Void"  

"Touching the Void" also featured a desperate outdoorsman, alone in his struggle for survival.  There are many parallels that I won't bore you with but if you see both films you'll know what I mean.

 Once he severs his arm free from the rock, the film moves along very quickly. Maybe it moves a little too fast but after enduring what seemed like hours on my couch while his arm is stuck, I was glad the pace picked up.

All in all, I think it is a terrific film.  Very well acted and beautifully shot.  Danny Boyle really directs a fine, real life piece of drama that feels much like a well shot documentary.
 I would recommend it even if it is a little slow in the middle.
Rated R.  Some profanity and bloody, gruesome removal of forearm

94 Minutes

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