The must-see drama 127 Hours features a moment where Aron Ralston (James Franco) straddles a spectacular rock formation in Canyonlands National Park, Utah.
As the sun rises, the meaning of a man’s life is captured, along with the thrill of encountering the Absolute.
Direct encounter with Source
Ralston plunges into the wilderness of his own being as he daredevils rocks and ravines. It’s a peak experience that flings him directly at life, death and eternity.
Accolades are piling high for Danny Boyle’s thriller based on Ralston’s memoir Between a Rock and a Hard Place. The film was nominated for six Oscars and three Golden Globes.
Franco won a Spirit Award for Best Male Lead, and was nominated for an Oscar and Golden Globe Award.
Extreme sports risky
Franco becomes a force of nature on equal footing with wind, sun, earth and water. Convincingly he plays a cocky 27-year-old who doesn’t tell anyone where he’s biking and climbing that weekend, a lover of metal music and speed, a ladies’ man who is truly at home by himself in the elements.
What Ralston seeks (and Franco so eloquently portrays) is sabi, which can be understood as a longing for the Divine. It is that moment of grace, that discovery of beauty in the strange and mysterious.
Boyle’s film is unique as it focuses so well on both the extreme sports action and inner life of Ralston. The psychological suspense of this true-life adventure is intense even when we know how the story ends.
Trapped and alone
Franco canyoneers, meditates and hallucinates, recalling his almost fatal mistake of leaving behind a Swiss Army Knife. While trapped, he speaks with Source via his camcorder. It’s here that he dictates his bodily functions, regrets and dreams to his human family past, present and future.
What Franco learns is a core principle of sabi. It’s vital to maintain a healthy connection with those around us. It is in relationship where love can be found, where Source touches us tangibly and grounds us. The thrill of solitary spiritual experience, like anything else, can turn into a lair of self-importance, an addiction to danger.
At just over 90 minutes, the length of 127 Hours is just right. It’s a survival tale with more punch than Cast Away (2000) and Touching the Void (2003). This personal tale turns mythic alongside the petroglyphs and pictographs of the canyon. Most harrowing is the amputation scene where Ralston decides to save his own life.
Dynamic, personal tale
Kudos go to Boyle and Simon Beaufoy for dynamic screenplay, and to Glenn Freemantle for sound design. Anthony Dod Mantle and Enrique Chediak achieve alluring nature and special effects cinematography.
Vast wilderness encompasses intricate detail. Over a hundred camera angles build momentum, intertwined with A.R. Rahman’s stirring music. Boyle assembled much of his Slumdog Millionaire team for this project.
Franco was nominated for Best Actor for this role. His death defying bravado and snarkiness is enhanced by the performances of Kate Mara and Amber Tamblyn, two attractive hikers who join him briefly as he guides them and shows off.
In a recent interview on Inside the Actor’s Studio, Franco spoke about desire to become a director. Franco is enrolled in graduate literature studies at Yale and is the author of a collection of short stories, Palo Alto.
Ralston’s book is worth reading for filmgoers who want to delve deeper into this gem of action and self-discovery. It’s reminiscent of Peter Matthiessen’s The Snow Leopard, a lively addition to the nature adventure/inner journey genre. Ralston appears at the conclusion of the film. (5 out of 5 stars)
If you like 127 Hours, you might enjoy: Winter’s Bone.
127 Hours 2010 / R / 1 hour, 34 min
Cast Overview: James Franco, Amber Tamblyn, Kate Mara, Treat Williams, John Lawrence, Kate Burton
Director: Danny Boyle
Genres: Adventure, Biopic, Drama, Drama Based on the Book