We suffer through every second of Aron Ralston's harrowing ordeal.

127 Hours

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis


            You will probably be both silent and exhausted at the end of 127 Hours. If the movie had been fiction, we could have watched it as melodrama - spectators resting comfortably in our seats indulging ourselves in justifiable skepticism. No such luck. Director Danny Boyle and actor James Franco are far too good to let us do that. We suffer through every second of Aron Ralston's harrowing ordeal. This is a true story filmed with great fidelity to the real thing.
            Because we know from the beginning that Aron will become impossibly stuck between two rocks and eventually have to cut off his own arm, we have plenty of time to try to figure this guy out, to wonder what makes him different from most of us. There's something in the DNA that makes some people love risk while others look for safety in their pleasure.
            We watch Aron move casually, somewhat carelessly around his room retrieving the things he will need for a hike in the desert - a water bottle, a camera, a camcorder, a watch, sunglasses, a climbing rope, a snack or two. As he runs his hand over the high closet shelf, he misses his Swiss Army knife and moves on without it. In high anticipation of hiking through the country he loves and knows so well, he walks past the table without leaving a note about where he's going. And he goes alone. Three errors in five minutes.
            The visual and musical collage tells us this young man has always adored risk. He heads out in his truck, driving deep into the desert where he leaves the truck and sets off on his bike. For twenty miles he rides heedlessly over sand and rock trying to break the estimated travel time. Aron is a man of good cheer. He helps two pretty young lost hikers find their way out of their dilemma and agrees to come to a party they are giving the next night. Taking them on a shortcut, he gives them the thrill of their young lives by cutting through a pass where they have to drop into a distant pool of water.
            And then it happens. As he struggles to free himself, he faces his two biggest mistakes: no one in the world knows where he is and the only blade he has is a cheap Christmas stocking present that won't even slice into his skin. The rest of the film is torment not only for him, but for us. The actual amputation is prolonged and bloody, his suffering acute. James Franco experiences Aron's agonizing hours with great credibility.
            The actor has made us understand why Aron would, and did, go repeatedly into the country he loves. We understand too that he will continue to look for risk and surprise in his pleasure. Aron Ralston is an adventurer with the reckless courage of a daredevil, and because of that courage, he survived his own carelessness.


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