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Thursday, Feb. 3, 2011 06:38 am

127 Hours: a testament to life and the will to survive


James Franco stars as Aron Ralston in 127 Hours.

When the news of Aron Ralston’s experience hit the airwaves, everyone who heard it had the same thought: Would I be able to do what he did to survive? For those who don’t remember, Ralston was the climber who, back in 2003, found himself literally between a rock and hard place, when a boulder dislodged above him while he was in a small gorge, pinning his right arm between it and a rock wall. Trapped for a more than five days, Ralston eventually severed his own arm with a knife barely sharp enough to slice a stick of butter. Then he walked away to tell the tale.

Always eager for a challenge, director Danny Boyle decided to recount Ralston’s experience for the big screen and the result is 127 Hours. Flashbacks to relationships handled badly, fantastically imagined yearnings for a cold soft drink and premonitions of what the future might hold for him are all brought to life in a kinetic fashion as Ralston’s trial plays out. They are all rendered in Boyle’s trademark kinetic fashion.

 Without question, the film fails if Franco is not up to the task but here the actor is given a role to match his great talent. He captures Ralston’s brashness, recklessness and boyish sense of humor without breaking a sweat. But when introspection is required, Franco reveals a sense of humanity that’s been hidden before. While videotaping himself, as Ralston did, the actor is genuine and moving as he expresses regret over lost chances and ponders how his past decisions have led him to his current predicament. But in the end, it’s his sense of determination and newfound humility that makes our journey with him worthwhile. Few moments are as moving as that in which Ralston imagines what he will miss in his future if he does not free himself. Then he finds the will to do just that.

What makes the movie successful is how Boyle and Franco convey that Ralston’s experience is ours as well. The metaphor is effective, as we’ve all felt hopelessly trapped to the point where no escape seems possible. 127 Hours effectively and movingly reminds us that no situation is without its exit, though it may take a sacrifice to set us free. In doing so, that which we leave behind makes us whole in the end.

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org.

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