127 HOURS (Rated R) 4 Stars
So, allow me a moment to make a Public Service Announcement. Yes, The King’s Speech is all kinds of classy, and way more sophisticated than watching a dude cut off pieces of his body. But just because you are retired and walk with a cane and want to see the classy movie, you still have the wait your turn in line behind those of us there to watch James Franco cut pieces off of himself. In other words: the person behind the counter opened up that extra line for those of us who had been waiting … they did not see you walk in the door and think, wow, older people need a special line. Please apply this rule to the line for getting into Aspen Creek, depositing money into the bank, and checking out at the grocery store as well.
The Internet Movie Database manages to sum up 127 Hours (94 minutes) pretty quickly: “A mountain climber becomes trapped under a boulder while canyoneering alone near Moab, Utah and resorts to desperate measures in order to survive.” Now I ask you — how can I possibly write 500 words when that is literally all that happens? Luckily for the readers, I know a bit of background, and when I run out of interesting historical details I can always make fun of James Franco for his guest role on General Hospital.
Danny Boyle knows what he is doing as a screenwriter and behind a camera. I mean, if he can turn five minutes of a little boy swimming in crap into two hours of Oscar Gold (his 2008 film Slumdog Millionaire), he’s doing something right. It took him four years to translate the true story of climber Aron Ralston into the big screen, and he made very few alterations to do so. In fact, the only major change occurs in the beginning of the narrative.
Ralston (Franco) prepares for his midnight drive into the canyons of Utah by listening to some pretty killer high energy techno-pop … carefully chosen/crafted/arranged by previous Boyle collaborator A.R. Rahman. The high energy introduction allows for periodic breaks that give the audience a sense of Ralston’s ability to pause and appreciate life, only to jump immediately back into action. The frenetic early action is especially intense when compared to the later moments of forced inaction … although even when pinned under boulders Boyle and Franco manage to inject the scenes with purposeful motion.
After the techno drive, followed by starlit camping, it is time for techno bike-riding and then techno running. Which is interrupted by lost, hot, girls (Amber Tamblyn and Kate Mara). Who are hot both appearance-wise and because it is the middle of the day and they are hiking in the desert. Here is where the dramatic narrative veers off a bit … in real life Ralston showed them some climbing moves. In the movie, he manages to convince them that following a scruffy dude into the middle of nowhere is a great life choice. And that there is nothing wrong with following him into a situation he is deliberately vague about. And when he jumps off a cliff, you should totally jump off the cliff after him.
So after his love of life utterly charms them, they invite him to a Scooby Doo party and he runs off. Because he is full of life! And, why walk when you can run? Once he is on his own he does some nifty canyoneering moves. Unfortunately, about 30 minutes into the film, just as he is well into the outdoorsy spirit, his nifty moves turn a rock into a projectile, projected at him. So, prepare to spend the next hour or so watching Ralston get progressively nuttier, wishing you had lots of water to drink, and, if you’re me, laughing at the other people in the theater who are closing their eyes for all the best scenes. Or, possibly laughing at all the best scenes. Because I find humor in people drinking their own pee to survive. Is that wrong? No. No it is not.