Bad Day at Blue John Canyon
Prior to its release there was such a buzz about Danny Boyle's "127 Hours" that even if you had never heard about Aron Ralston's amazing story you probably knew all about it before watching the movie. And that is how I saw "127 Hours", I didn't know Ralston's story only through the buzz and I wondered how you could make a story about a man stuck down a narrow canyon for just over 5 days interesting, with of course the exception of the drastic methods he took to survive. But between Danny Boyle's snappy direction and a brilliant almost solo performance from James Franco we get a real sense of what those 5 days were like for Aron, the fear, the desperation, the hallucinations and of course that choice he had to make to cut off his own arm.
Having headed out to the Blue John Canyon for a weekend of solo exploring, adventurer Aron Ralston (James Franco - Eat Pray Love) comes unstuck when he falls down a narrow canyon and ends up between a rock and a hard place with his arm pinned to the canyon wall by a boulder. With meagre supplies and no one to help Aron spends the next few days trying to survive and chip away at the boulder to free himself, suffering hallucinations and flashbacks as he does. But just as he is ready to give in and die he finds the courage and drive to free himself in the only way left.
In a way "127 Hours" reminds me quite strongly of one of Boyle's earlier movies "The Beach" when it comes to the style of it. We get a fun, adventurous opening 20 minute salvo as we meet Aron as he explores Blue John Canyon alone, meets a couple of tourists who he shows the delights of what seems suicidal water diving and basically is at one with the beauty of the unspoilt canyon. There is a lightness to all of this with some moments of humour and we get Boyle's snappy almost trippy editing which makes it feel almost party like as he delivers quick edits, sped up film and several partying style flashbacks. But then we get the drama and Boyle throws it in in such an abrupt and real manner that it grabs you by surprise when we watch Aron fall with his arm trapped against a canyon wall by a boulder.
That initial drama is spectacular in being so dramatic yet what follows is more spectacular and I am not on about what we know is to come. What I am on about is the 5 days in which Aron survived in the Canyon, rationing water, trying to chip away at the boulder and basically being as creative as possible. You do get a sense of the struggle, that 15 minutes of sunlight and warmth in the morning was a single pleasure, whilst the fear of dying was ever present. And of course we get the life flashing before his eyes although what we get is a series of flashbacks brought on over the days as he remembers growing up, romances and so on and so forth. All of which builds to him bordering on giving up and dying until he has a premonition.
Now of course it's impossible not to watch "127 Hours" without knowing what Aron did to survive and I don't mean just drinking his own urine. And trust me Danny Boyle doesn't hold back when it comes to the graphic intensity of watching him cut his arm off. In fact you need a strong stomach to watch these scenes and even then the need to look away is seriously strong. But whilst you sort of suspect that Boyle did want to shock with these scenes he also wanted to deliver the intense experience for the watcher and he certainly achieves that.
Now whilst Boyle's expertise as a director is part of the reason why "127 Hours" is so watch able it is almost the virtuoso performance from James Franco which makes this a brilliant movie. With the majority of the movie just being Franco on his own, in a huge crack with a boulder the way he gets across his emotions is spot on as we connect with him. So from the panic, the fear, the disgust at drinking his own body fluid as well as the dark humour as he records his experience you feel everything he feels. And you certainly feel it when it does come to the arm hacking scene and just watching Franco as he goes to work on his arm is a big reason why it is unsettling as he delivers the sickening fear so brilliantly.
What this all boils down to is that "127 Hours" is a brilliant movie and does a stunning job of telling Aron Ralston's story in a way that it takes the audience on a journey into the narrow Blue John canyon and experiencing every emotion and problem he did.