(James Franco, Lizzy Caplan, et al / DVD / NR / 2011 / Fox Searchlight Pictures)
Overview: Aron Ralston (James Franco) has a passion for all things outdoors. But when a falling boulder traps him in a remote Utah canyon, a thrill-seeker’s adventure becomes the challenge of a lifetime. Over the next five days, Ralston embarks on a remarkable personal journey in which he relies on the memories of family and friends - as well as his own courage and ingenuity - to turn adversity into triumph!
DVD Verdict: '127 Hours' is a full feature film about a quite tragic, but nonetheless conquering incident. Aron Ralston, an avid climber and hiker, played by the talented James Franco, made the near fatal mistake of not telling anyone where he was going. Ralston sets out to his "home away from home" and meets a couple of less experienced hikers looking for some adventure. He takes them to a beautiful spot where they enjoy a brief swim, though this section is not factual to the real experience.
Afterward, Ralston continues his trek and ends up, as the real Aron Ralston named his book, stuck "between a rock and a hard place". What follows is his incredible journey to free himself, rappel a 65 foot rock wall and hike over 8 miles to finally be rescued in one of the most emotional endings in a film to date.
There were a lot of challenges in developing a feature length film based on Ralston's amazing story. Many wondered how director Danny Boyle would keep the audience engaged since the setting is a single place with a single character. Not to mention the fact that we all know how the story ends up. Nominated for six Academy Awards including Best Actor and Best Picture it's obvious they overcame these challenges.
For one thing, the pacing is perfect as was the accompanying music. Boyle seamlessly transitioned slow dismal scenes with those of courage and optimism. This worked largely due to the variety of music used in the film. From the outstanding original score from A.R. Rahmin to the uplifting "Lovely Day" by Bill Withers and the surreal finale from Sigur Rós. To me it seemed like the music was an auditory way of showing his inner thoughts during the whole experience, the soundtrack was a character all it's own.
'127 Hours' is a powerful movie and story. One in which could not have been so successful had it not been for the astounding direction and cinematography. Boyle's team brought the experience of trekking the Utah canyons to life with fluid camera work. A close-up shot of Franco's hand sliding against the rock wall while navigating through the canyon is just one of many examples. Personally, I thought this film should have been not only nominated for Best Cinematography in the Academy Awards but also won. Boyle is a master of his craft and this film further propels him to the top of the list of best directors working today.
I won't get into the "meat" of the amputation scene, but I will say that it was one of the most intense things I've witnessed in film. That is saying a lot considering the types of movies I watch and review here. Disturbingly accurate this scene was filmed in one take using multiple camera's and only one prosthetic arm. Yet another testimony to Franco's superb acting.
Following the amputation scene we see more outstanding direction and cinematography as Ralston makes the final journey to his rescue. The best part about this final sequence is that we know what happens but while watching we are at the edge of our seat. We put aside what we already know and just go along for the ride. The direction causes us to be unsure if he will make it or not. That is the brilliance of "127 Hours" and Boyle's production team.
I highly recommend this film as it is one of the best stories and film of at least the last few years. [PW] This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
Feature Commentary by Director/Co-Screenwriter Danny Boyle, Producer Christian Colson and Co-Screenwriter Simon Beaufoy