By Orion Carrington
I’m not claustrophobic or anything, but the mere thought of being stuck in a narrow canyon with the use of only one of my arms because the other is pinned to the wall of the canyon by a massive boulder and is quickly losing circulation is SCARY… Almost as scary as the thought of trying to recreate the whole event on film and making it interesting enough to keep an audience's attention for a full hour and a half. That would really freak out most people, but not director Danny Boyle. Boyle took on the project of 127 Hours immediately following his Academy Award-winning hit Slumdog Millionaire, and he didn’t skip a beat!
Screening at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House in Denver for the Starz Denver Film Festival's Big Night on Nov. 5, 127 Hours is based on the real life story by Colorado native Aron Ralston, who spent five days (or 127 hours to be exact) fighting to survive while he was trapped in a canyon in Utah in 2003. Ralston was running out of food, water and eventually hope, until finally deciding to amputate his own arm in a last ditch effort to live. The story is all chronicled in Ralston’s memoir Between a Rock and a Hard Place and has now made its way to the big screen.
As you could imagine, shooting a movie that takes place primarily in a narrow, dimly lit canyon is quite a feat, think Cast Away minus the volleyball “Wilson," but Boyle manages to pull it off. The cinematography was creative, which kept it interesting, but Boyle would cut to shots of the canyon walls and from Aron's point of-view, so that you’d never forget that he was stuck in a desperate situation.
The role of Aron Ralston is played by actor James Franco, best known for Pineapple Express and the Spider-Man movies. Franco really captures Aron’s character in his portrayal, playing him to a T. I had the opportunity to meet and speak with the real Aron, and he seemed like a great guy, very humbled from his experience, and thankful for the life he’d been given.
This brings me to the only problem I had with the film. I never thought I’d ever say this about a movie, but I think Franco may have stayed too true to Ralston’s character; most people won’t get the chance to meet the real Aron like I did, and although I think he’d be a great guy to go grab a beer with, I’m not sure I’d want to watch him for almost two hours on the big screen.
Aron seemed like a cool, confident and laid-back kind of guy. The type of person who doesn’t lose his cool even in a horrific situation like getting his arm smashed, trapping him in a canyon in the middle of no where. But, this was a movie after all, and although I’m sure Franco used a bit of artistic license, I found myself wanting more. I wanted to feel genuinely afraid for Aron after watching him fall into a canyon, but his confident demeanor shined through and cast a shadow on any feelings of fear or concern I might have had.
I’m sure there’s a fine line, and it’s probably extremely difficult to portray someone who’s still alive and an active participant in the film you are working on, but there comes a point where myth becomes legend and that transformation can only happen from the little extra nuances added by the actor.
Franco became Ralston in this film, and although that was impressive to me, someone who interacted with the real person, I felt by staying so true to Ralston’s real image, he’s going to miss the opportunity to connect with the majority of people watching the film, who would be going crazy in the same position.
That being said, the movie will still grab its viewers and keep them gasping for air along with its focal character until the very end, when Aron finally comes to the conclusion that he’s going to detach his own arm with a dull, worn-out knife… That scene alone explains why Boyle won the Mayor’s Career Achievement Award at the Starz Denver Film Festival this year. I’m sure it’s the first of many to come from this movie for Boyle.
A gripping story of triumph and perseverance, 127 Hours is Danny Boyle’s latest challenge in filmmaking, and much like its predecessor, Slumdog Millionaire, you’re not going to want be the only person in the world who hasn’t seen Boyle’s latest stunning sensation.
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