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127 Hours

A dramatic film directed by Danny Boyle, starring James Franco, and based on the true story of Aron Ralston who was trapped alone in the desert.

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Heroes Often Fail

  • Jan 1, 2011
I think there is inherent in mountain climbers and outdoor thrill seekers a certain degree of arrogance. To subject yourself to extreme environmental conditions and believe that you’re capable of taking them on requires a great deal of confidence, if not something of a superiority complex. I say this as someone who has never scaled a mountain and has absolutely no intention of ever doing so; perhaps it’s coming from a place of jealousy, since being unwilling to take a risk has not allowed me to live life to the fullest. But then again, I can’t help it if I find the indoors far more comfortable and a whole lot safer. And I’m certainly not the kind of person that wants to risk life and limb simply for the sake of challenging myself and/or feeling an adrenaline rush.
On the basis of his life, there can be no doubt that Aron Ralston is such a person. In 2002, he quit his mechanical engineering position at Intel to fully devote himself to a project that began in 1998: Scaling solo all fifty-three of Colorado’s 14,000-foot peaks. He became the first person to achieve this goal in 2005. In 2008, he climbed Argentina’s Ojos de Salado and Monte Pissis. That same year, he climbed Alaska’s Mount McKinley and actually skied down from its summit, which is more than 20,000 feet high. In 2009, he climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. Given this track record, it should come as no surprise that he someday plans to scale Mount Everest.
His most publicized expedition was in April of 2003. While hiking Blue John Canyon in Moab, Utah, he slipped and fell into a crevice, causing a dislodged boulder to pin his right arm against the canyon wall; five days later, facing dehydration and delirium, he was forced to sever his arm below the elbow with a dull pocket knife. He would later write about this experience in his autobiography “Between a Rock and a Hard Place,” which would soon become a “New York Times” bestseller. This means, of course, that every one of Ralston’s post-2003 expeditions were literally done single handedly. I have to admit, I truly don’t understand this mindset. After such a traumatic experience, how on earth would anyone be able to even look at a rock formation, let alone scale it?
Ralston’s 2003 accident has found its way into the hands of director Danny Boyle and been turned into the film “127 Hours,” an intense and shocking but also life-affirming man-against-nature drama. Ralston is portrayed by James Franco, who, like Natalie Portman in “Black Swan,” pushes himself to the very limits of physical and psychological endurance. It’s an amazing performance, especially since the entire film is basically a one-man show. We watch with helpless fascination as he struggles, not only against the boulder pinning his arm, but also against hunger, dehydration, and insanity, his mind often giving way to vivid daydreams and disturbing insights. We also watch as he tries to keep a level head and work with whatever tools he has at his disposal.
Intertwined with his ordeal are harsh but cleansing periods of confession and self criticism, which he makes into video testimonials on his digital camcorder. One of the film’s best scenes is when he imagines he’s a guest on a talk show. Boyle doesn’t go for the obvious and show him in a fully furnished TV studio; he instead shows Ralston exactly as he is in the canyon. We do, however, hear a phantom audience, who are perfectly timed to Ralston as he vocally shifts back and forth between himself and the loud-mouthed host. In that imaginary interview, we learn that Ralston never left a note saying where he was going, which means no one would know where to look once they realized he was missing. Why would he be that careless? Because he thought he could be a hero. Ah, but as Gordon Lightfoot once observed, heroes often fail.
He also uses the camcorder to film his goodbyes to his family and friends. He’s especially sorry to his mother; he regrets the day the let the answering machine take her phone call, even though he was home at the time. He also regrets the way he handled his relationship with his girlfriend, Rana (Clémence Poésy), who said on their last date that he would be awfully lonely someday.
It goes without saying that the arm severing scene is difficult to sit through. I’ve seen horror movies in which people are hacked to bits and blood sprays everywhere, and I don’t even blink; watching the final scenes of “127 Hours,” I squirmed in my seat, squinted my eyes, gritted my teeth, and just wanted the whole thing to be done and over with. Amazing how audiences can react so differently, depending on the context. Boyle does an amazing job of depicting the genuine horror of the situation. He doesn’t shy away from it, and yet he captures it in such a way that it seems neither gory nor exploitive. It’s a real moment in the life of a real person. His greatest accomplishment, however, was making me thankful for the things I take for granted on a daily basis, like access to food and water. And yes, even the love of my family.

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January 01, 2011
excellent review. I missed this when it played on a limited run around here, but I will definitely get the dvd. Boyle is a great director, I always liked his movies, I guess I like his approach in filmmaking. Happy New Year, Chris!
More 127 Hours reviews
review by . April 04, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
We Often Find Ourselves At Our Strongest During Our Weakest Moments....
 I can almost guarantee that most everyone had seen and heard the news reports about the search for Aron Ralston and the harrowing experience he had gone through. Most of the details of his time in the Canyonlands National Park in Utah were shared in his autobiographical book called “Between a Rock and a Hard Place” that has inspired this film. Co-written and directed by Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire), “127 Hours” was critically acclaimed and gave James Franco a best …
review by . February 25, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Epitaph in Blue John Canyon: Aron Ralston (1975-2003)
What's the odd of being stranded in the bottom of a Canyon solo and then having a boulder fall on you and trapped your hand in between?! That's one in a trillion chance, isn't it?      The footage in this movie is simply awesome! I love Canyons and have been to a great many in the U.S. but I would never dream myself of being trapped the way Aron Ralston was. And the story of the movie goes on to show how he survived it after 127 hours (5 days or so) of life threatening …
review by . April 16, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
**** out of ****     Danny Boyle is one of the most ambitious and talented filmmakers in the business, today. He made "28 Days Later" and "Slumdog Millionaire", both wonderful, and now he has made "127 Hours". But this time, there is not one, but two men behind all the magic. James Franco stars in this film, and he acts as Boyle's other. Without Boyle, Franco would be screwed; and without Franco, so would Boyle (maybe). I know Boyle as a stylistic genius and powerful story-teller. …
review by . February 17, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
A true story, that had only started to fade from our memory was brought back to our attention by James Franco and Danny Boyle and is now up for a couple of awards. 127 Hours tells the story of Aron Ralston, a 27-year old climber, who trapped his right arm between a boulder and the wall of a small slot canyon in the vast Arizona desert. While your choice to go to this movie or to stay away may be based on the climax, you would be foolish to judge this movie on that scene alone.   …
review by . January 06, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
   Danny Boyle deserves all the credit in the world for this directorial achievement. Personally, I think he did an outstanding thing taking on a subject which is hard to put on screen for one hour and half and keep you interested in the character and keep things entertaining: the true story of Aron Ralston, a mountain climber who had to resort to one of the most desperate measures in order to fade death.      A profound survival story that doesn't get too melodramatic …
review by . May 06, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
A Real Ordeal Becomes a Fascinating Stream-of-Consciousness Survival Story
Watching the first twenty minutes of 127 Hours I was repelled by what I was watching, and not just by Aron Ralston's rope, either.  It doesn't help a review when you want to be uplifted and inspired after a long, hard day at work.  What started as his ordeal became mine and will most likely become yours as the aforementioned protagonist climbs through the arid, rocky, rugged redish-orange Utah terrain.  Experienced, yet unsuspecting, the lone hiker falls into a cavern with …
review by . December 31, 2010
It's not often that I see a preview that grabs me as much as the one for "127 Hours" did. Scenery straight out of a Road Runner cartoon, excitement, adventure, and... hey, wait a minute, this isn't about that guy who... oh crap, it IS about that guy. Yes, THAT guy, the one who got trapped by a boulder while hiking in a remote area of Utah and cut off his own arm to free himself. I remember reading about him - his name is Aron Ralston -- when this happened in 2003. I also remember …
Quick Tip by . March 22, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
James Franco just keeps rising as one of the most interesting and underrated actors in Hollywood. Ever since seeing him play James Dean in a made-for-TV biopic, I've been watching him very carefully as he chooses his roles. For a while he got a lot of supporting and a few leading parts in big budget action films, but he's showing his acting abilities lately in more independent and character driven films. Last year was a good year for Franco as he starred in two great films (the other being …
Quick Tip by . March 22, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
REALLY well done film. Went in very skeptical of how they could make a two hour film from a guy stuck under a rock... and a story for which we already know the ending. Both director and actor made for a phenomenally visceral ride -- very hard to watch (not for reasons you'd expect actually), but really well made.  LOVE this director's unique and palpable style!! I was left with the same feeling I had after watching Slumdog Millionaire... boy would I love to see a movie THIS good every …
review by . September 25, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Man vs the Mountain
127 HOURS   Written by Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy   Directed by Danny Boyle   Starring James Franco      Aron Ralston: This rock has been waiting for me my whole life.      I thought that winning an Oscar might mellow SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE director, Danny Boyle but it only seems to have fueled his fire.  Before anything has a chance to happen in his latest, 127 HOURS, the screen is split into three and images of people going …
About the reviewer
Chris Pandolfi ()
Ranked #2
Growing up a shy kid in a quiet suburb of Los Angeles, Chris Pandolfi knows all about the imagination. Pretend games were always the most fun for him, especially on the school playground; he and his … more
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About this movie


127 Hours is the true story of mountain climber Aron Ralston's remarkable adventure to save himself after a fallen boulder crashes on his arm and traps him in an isolated canyon in Utah. Over the next five days Ralston examines his life and survives the elements to finally discover he has the courage and the wherewithal to extricate himself by any means necessary, scale a 65 foot wall and hike over eight miles before he can be rescued. Throughout his journey, Ralston recalls friends, lovers, family, and the two hikers he met before his accident. Will they be the last two people he ever had the chance to meet? Written by Fox Searchlight Pictures  
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Director: Danny Boyle
Genre: Adventure, Drama, Thriller
Release Date: 28 January 2011 (USA)
MPAA Rating: R
Screen Writer: Danny Boyle, Simon Beaufoy
Runtime: 94 min
Studio: Cloud Eight Films, Film4, Everest Entertainment
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