127 Hours – 2010
I enjoyed this movie more than I thought I would. Why? Because I have never been a huge fan of James Franco. I’ll admit I haven’t seen many of his movies, but the ones I have seen didn’t impress me. He is one of those actors about whom I have always wondered why he has such a successful Hollywood career. Now, concerning Franco, I have a little inkling as to why. This film was based on a true story, and I’d say that ninety percent of the film was just one character, Aaron Ralston played by Franco. He is one of those people who loves hiking, swimming, climbing, biking, and camping, and being outdoors, all things that I am opposed to in my own life. That was strike two for me. So right off the bat, I was instinctively uninterested in the film. But I checked myself and tried my best to get over my personal prejudices and enjoy the drama.
But I found that James Franco and a story about an arrogant thrill seeker seemed to be a perfect match. Franco played his part perfectly and I was properly impressed. Not only did he really look the part, but he displayed a dramatic depth that I was not expecting. You see, as he is hiking alone in the wastelands of Utah, he falls down into a canyon along with a heavy boulder. His right hand gets crushed and wedged between the falling boulder and the canyon wall. He is stuck.
At first he is just afraid of the damage done to his limb. He tries to move the huge rock, but it won’t budge. As the reality of his situation begins to settle in, he realizes that if he cannot free his hand, he might very well die in the canyon. Just imagine how terrifying it would be! And to make matters worse, he realizes that he never told anyone where he was going. Nobody would even know where to look for him. What follows is Aaron’s struggle to remain calm, clear headed, and alive.
He goes through a wide range of emotions, which Franco handled well. Fear, determination, hallucinations, starvation, resignation, regret, and hope, all combined to take Aaron on a journey that tested his ingenuity, his sanity, and survival skills. He rationed his water and what little food he carried in his backpack. He had a small handheld video camera which he used to make a video diary of his situation, which eventually turned into a farewell video to his family. His thoughts strayed from friends he had met, a failed relationship, and even the two hikers he had met the day before his ordeal had begun, Kristi and Megan, played by Kate Mara and Amber Tamblyn. He had a dream about rain water coming down so hard that the canyon flooded, causing the boulder to shift enough to free his hand.
He skirted around the edges of madness until finally accepting his only horrifying chance for survival. After 127 hours, more than five days, stuck in the tiny little canyon, he did what he had to do. First, he used the few pieces of equipment he’d been carrying in his backpack to make a tourniquet around his arm. Next, was able to break the two bones in his arm. Then, using a dull pocket knife, he slowly cut through the flesh of the arm, finally severing it several inches below the elbow.
I try to imagine myself in his situation, and I don’t know if I could have done what he did. Could I have endured the pain of breaking my bones and cutting off my hand to survive? The survival instinct is strong and Aaron did what he had to do. It made for some good drama. After he was free, he took a picture of the remains of his hand and arm, then left the canyon to search for water. With his stump wrapped in a plastic bag, he repels down a sixty-five foot cliff before finding a fetid pool of rain water. He then strikes out into the desert and finds a group of hikers who are able to give him clean water and call for help. A helicopter arrives to air-lift him to safety and medical attention.
As I said, I was impressed with Franco’s performance. According to the real Aaron Ralston, the movie was so accurate and well-executed, he thought he could have been watching a documentary about his terrifying experience. Just as an interesting note, the real Ralston eventually went back to the canyon. It took thirteen men, a winch, and a hydraulic jack to move the boulder and free the severed hand. The limb was then cremated and the ashes were scattered into the canyon where Ralston says they belong.
And in regards to the film, Ralston says that the horrific amputation scene is what most people remember about the movie, and they are missing the point. He said that everything you see onscreen, the arrogant, selfish guy who goes into that canyon and the grateful man who walks out, having spent days in this beautiful remote place without humans, trying to reach out to other humans in his life via a camcorder, is true. He says, “It’s not a nightmare at all. It’s perhaps the most beautiful story I’ll get to experience in my life.” I couldn’t agree more. And also… always let someone know where you are going.