Friday, March 11, 2011

Movie Review: 127 Hours

127 Hours

Last night I was feeling a little cranky. I'd gotten through a recorded episode of American Idol in about 20 minutes by fast forwarding through the group number, mansion move-in, and Ford commercial, as well as much of Ryan's blather and the departing contestant's futile last-ditch singing effort. I'd bought myself some free time before going to bed.

Then my husband said he felt like watching a movie. No! That wasn't part of my plan for the evening. He'd seen a promo for 127 Hours, though, the Academy Award-nominated picture about a climber who gets pinned by a rock in a Utah slot canyon and eventually hacks off his own arm to escape. (This shouldn't be a spoiler; it's the basis for the movie.) It's been on my "to see" list, so I slid back down on the couch.

I thought it might be slow. After all, how much action can take place in a story about a guy trapped under a rock? I was wrong. The opening credits roll over a three-way split screen buzzing with visuals. Bikers, crowds, activity – all in vivid colors. We meet Aron Ralston, on a solo mission to take off for the weekend climbing... somewhere. Clearly a free spirit, he drives to the desert in the middle of the night, sleeps in his car, and tears off on his bike the next day into gorgeous canyonlands. Miles away from his starting point he runs into a couple of female hikers and takes them to the purest and bluest natural plunge pool you've ever seen. Water becomes a recurring theme.

By the time he gets into real trouble, we've gotten to know Aron. He's an athletic Superman. He's independent, charming, and a little goofy. Part of what's engaging about the story is that we see him undergo not only the physical ordeal of being trapped, but also a personal transformation. He changes from a selfish, freewheeling, no-consequences type of guy to someone with a sense of perspective that was previously lacking. After moving from hope to desperation to reflection and acceptance, then inspiration to perform the brutal task that finally frees him, he emerges a different person.

127 Hours is a beautiful movie, visually stunning all the way through. James Franco makes a great Ralston. He was nominated for an Oscar for the role, in which he renders a wide spectrum of physical and emotional states – and even resembles the real-life character. There's not a ho-hum moment in the film. The writers and filmmakers made what could have been a slow plod toward a known ending into a fresh, dynamic, and compelling piece of storytelling.