Romy Shiller

127 Hours

In Film, review on November 8, 2011 at 12:30 pm

(published March 20, 2011.)

I thought I was going to die.

Aron Ralston 

Director: Danny Boyle
Writers: Danny Boyle, Simon Beaufoy.
Stars: James Franco, Amber Tamblyn and Kate Mara

Nobody wanted me to watch this film. You see, I write about Aron Ralston in my book You Never Know: A Memoir (http://tinyurl.com/4v3mzxu). I am far from fragile, however. I basically say that I had a brain operation and went into a 5 month coma. As a result, I am disabled. I have written three books and countless articles with one bent finger. I am considered inspirational but I say that he is. This film was interesting to me because I wanted to see how this true story was captured on film. I hope to have my story on film one day too.

Aron Lee Ralston (born October 27, 1975) is an  American mountain climber and  public speaker. He gained fame in May 2003when, while canyoneering in  Utah, he was forced to  amputate his right  arm with a dull knife in order to free himself after his arm became trapped by a boulder.

The incident is documented in Ralston’s 2004  autobiography Between a Rock and a Hard Place, and is the subject of the 2010 film  127 Hours. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aron_Ralston)

I cried and felt like puking when I first saw it so I watched the film again with a commentary by Danny Boyle, on DVD. For me, the commentary was great. I found it relieving to hear about Danny Boyle’s attention to detail, his commitment to accuracy, and his esteem for Aron Ralston.

I am so tangled in this story because of my constructed relationship with Aron Ralston. I still don’t know if I cried for him or me. I cried and felt like puking again – not at the amputation scene but before – when he was trapped.

Aron Ralston compulsively filmed himself on a small video camera he had. What ends up in the film is pretty much verbatim. Now we are used to self-reporting in large part because of social-networking but at the time this was unique.

Franco said, “So with the voice messages, they were scripted but I felt like, maybe he didn’t believe this, but I think [Boyle] gave me the freedom to be a little loose with the words. The most important thing was that it would feel natural and because actually when we watched the real videos, one of the more powerful things about them is how simple it was and how direct and connected it was. To capture that, Danny I think allowed me some looseness but every once in a while there’d be a line in there and I’d say to myself, “I don’t know. I just won’t say that because it’s kind of stupid. Who talks like that?” Not even stupid, it’s just like completely unnecessary. Like “Give this video camera to my parents, be sure of that.” (http://www.moviesonline.ca/2010/10/danny-boyles-james-franco-interview-127-hours/)

I looked his stuff up on Youtube. It is quite limited because apparently he promised his mother not to share it.

The landscape is a character here. The film was shot in the actual location. Southern Utah. The canyon is breathtaking, vast, isolated and also lethal.  The shots have a huge range – helicopter perspective to hand-held tiny video camera. The canyon itself ranges in interest from the very big to the very small.

The film starts out with massive crowds which are a very nice contrast to the lone experience.  Before he gets trapped, the emphasis is on water because later on it becomes a big issue.

At first the frivolity and the excess of water is captured by a swim he has with two female hikers he meets. At the very beginning of the film he leaves a tap dripping. When he is trapped he fantasizes about the orange drink he has left in his car. He resorts to drinking his own urine. Boyle said, “Then [Franco] says the other great line when he drinks his urine, “Well, it’s not slurpee” or something like that. It’s very funny and that kind of thing is crucial in these circumstances, in hell really to have that spark of humor shows you life is still pulsing alive.”  (http://www.moviesonline.ca/2010/10/danny-boyles-james-franco-interview-127-hours/)

He is trapped in a dark crevasse. Sunlight shines in at a certain time of day in a spot close to him. He stretches out his foot to meet it. I will never regard sunlight the same way.

He hallucinates and has memories. Much of this action is placed in a triptych – the screen is divided into three parts. Not only is this stylistic but it indicates a shift, an altered perspective. I like that this style mirrors how fractured he is becoming.

Danny Boyle is best known for his work on films such as  Slumdog Millionaire,  28 Days Later,  Sunshineand  Trainspotting.  His direction here is brilliant. He also made sure not to give Franco more props than Ralston actually had. He was meticulous and trustworthy.

James Franco, was nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of Aron Ralston. He absolutely captured the feeling, the terror or anguish. Amidst this desperate situation there was clear thinking and focus. Imagine thinking you are going to die and then deciding to cut your own arm off? James Franco did.

Franco said, “Some of the video messages are verbatim what he actually said. But our whole approach, not just for the video messages but in general was that we would honor Aron’s story and we would do everything that he did but also we wanted to have our own approach to it or have the latitude to just find things on our own. We did the chipping and everything as he did, but not like matching exactly what was his hand movement like?” (http://screencrave.com/2010-11-04/interview-james-franco-and-danny-boyle-for-127-hours/)

A review says, “[Danny Boyle] worked that magic memorably with Trainspotting (1996), about the dead-end lives of heroin addicts, and again with his Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire (2008), which dealt with grinding poverty.

In 127 Hours, he applies his alchemy once more, this time to the real-life survival tale of  Aron Ralston, the gutsy young hiker who cut off his arm to escape death after being pinned by a boulder for five days.” (http://www.cbc.ca/news/arts/film/story/2010/11/10/127-hours-review.html)

I still think that Aron Ralston is inspirational only now I have more detail. Not everyone will relate to this film but being tangled, I found it gut-wrenching. So should you see it? Well, it is a well-made film but if you are squeamish, I don’t know. I heard that people left the theatre and threw up. The film is not particularly gory but I found it disturbing. I saw it twice and I will see it again but I am not you.

Award info:

ACADEMY AWARDS:
Noms announced: Jan. 25th
Ceremony: Feb. 27th

Noms:
Best Picture
Best Actor, James Franco
Best Adapted Screenplay, Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy
Best Editing, Jon Harris
Best Score, A.R. Rahman
Best Song, “If I Rise”, A.R. Rahman, Rollo Armstrong, Dido

GOLDEN GLOBE AWARDS
Noms announced: Dec. 14th
Ceremony: Jan. 16th

Noms:
Best Actor, James Franco
Best Score, A.R. Rahman
Best Screenplay, Simon Beaufoy & Danny Boyle

BROADCAST FILM CRITICS ASSOCIATION CRITICS’ CHOICE MOVIE AWARDS
Noms announced:
Dec. 13th
Ceremony:
Jan. 14th

Noms:
Best Picture
Best Actor, James Franco
Best Director, Danny Boyle
Best Adapted Screenplay, Simon Beaufoy and Danny Boyle
Best Cinematography, Anthony Dod Mantle & Enrique Chediak
Best Editing, Jon Harris
Best Sound
Best Song, “If I Rise” performed by Dido and A.R. Rahman

INDEPENDENT SPIRIT AWARDS
Noms announced: Nov. 30th
Ceremony: Feb. 26th

Wins:
Best Male Lead, James Franco

Noms:
Best Feature
Best Director, Danny Boyle

SCREEN ACTORS GUILD AWARDS
Noms announced:
Dec. 16th
Ceremony:
Jan. 30th

Noms:
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role, James Franco

BAFTAs (SHORTLIST NOMINATIONS)
Noms announced: Jan 7th (longlist), Jan 18th (shortlist)
Ceremony: Feb. 13th

Noms:
Outstanding British Film
Best Director, Danny Boyle
Best Actor, James Franco
Best Adapted Screenplay, Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy
Best Original Music, A.R. Rahman
Best Cinematography, Anthony Dod Mantle, Enrique Chediak
Best Editing, Jon Harris
Best Sound, Glenn Freemantle, Ian Tapp, Richard Pryke, Steven C Laneri, Douglas Cameron

BAFTAs (LONGLIST NOMINATIONS)
Noms announced: Jan 7th (longlist), Jan 18th (shortlist)
Ceremony: Feb. 13th

Best Film
Best Director, Danny Boyle
Best Actor, James Franco
Best Adapted Screenplay,Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy
Best Original Music, A.R. Rahman
Best Make-Up and Hair
Special Visual Effects
Best Sound
Best Editing
Best Production Design
Best Cinematography

PRODUCERS GUILD OF AMERICA AWARDS
Noms Announced: Jan. 4th
Ceremony: Feb. 5th

Noms:
The Darryl F. Zanuck Award for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures, Danny Boyle & Christian Colson

WRITERS GUILD OF AMERICA AWARDS
Noms announced: Jan. 4th
Ceremony: Jan. 22nd

Noms:
Best Original Screenplay, Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy; Based on the book Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Aron Ralston

INTERNATIONAL PRESS ACADEMY SATELLITE AWARDS
Noms announced: Dec. 1st
Ceremony: Dec. 19th

Noms:
Motion Picture (Drama)
Director, Danny Boyle
Actor in a Motion Picture (Drama), James Franco
Screenplay (Adapted), Simon Beaufoy & Danny Boyle
Cinematography
Original Score
Original Song, “If I Rise”
Sound (Editing and Mixing)
Visual Effects

WASHINGTON AREA FILM CRITICS AWARDS
Announced:
Dec. 6th

Noms:
Best Film
Best Director, Danny Boyle
Best Actor, James Franco
Best Adapted Screenplay, Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy
Best Cinematography
Best Score

DETROIT FILM CRITICS SOCIETY AWARDS
Noms announced
: Dec. 10th
Winners announced: Dec. 16th

Wins:
Best Director, Danny Boyle

Noms:
Best Film
Best Actor, James Franco

HOUSTON FILM CRITICS SOCIETY AWARDS
Noms announced: Dec. 11th

Best Actor, James Franco
Best Director, Danny Boyle
Best Cinematography, Anthony Dod Mantle & Enrique Chediak
Best Original Score, A.R. Rahman
Best Original Song, “If I Rise”

AFI AWARDS
Announced: Dec. 12th

Wins:
Top Ten Most Oustanding Motion PIctures of 2010

NEW YORK FILM CRITICS ONLINE AWARDS
Announced: Dec. 12th

Wins:
Best Actor, James Franco

SOUTHEASTERN FILM CRITIC ASSOCIATION AWARDS
Announced:
Dec 13th

Wins:
Top Ten Films, 127 Hours

Runner-up:
Best Actor, James Franco

INDIANA FILM JOURNALISTS ASSOCIATION AWARDS
Announced:
Dec. 13th

Wins:
Best Film of the Year (Top Ten)

Runner-up:
Best Actor, James Franco
Original Vision Award

ST. LOUIS FILM CRITICS ASSOCIATION AWARDS
Noms announced:
Dec. 13th
Winners announced: Dec. 20th

Wins:
Best Actor, James Franco (runner-up)
Best Cinematography, Anthony Dod Mantle & Enrique Chediak (runner-up)
Special Merit Award (for best scene, cinematic technique or other memorable aspect or moment), In “127 Hours,” the zoom-up scene which begins with a tight shot on Aron (James Franco) as he is screaming and pulls out to a wide shot of a large land area, showing how isolated he was from other humans.

Noms:
Best Director, Danny Boyle
Best Adapted Screenplay, Simon Baufoy & Danny Boyle
Moving the Medium Forward Awards (for technical/artistic innovative that advances the medium)

PHOENIX  FILM CRITICS SOCIETY AWARDS
Noms announced:
Dec. 13th
Winners announced: Dec. 28th

Wins:
Top 10 Films of 2010

Best Picture
Best Director, Danny Boyle
Best Actor, James Franco
Best Editing

SAN DIEGO FILM CRITICS SOCIETY AWARDS
Noms announced: Dec. 13th

Best Director, Danny Boyle
Best Actor, James Franco
Best Cinematography, Anthony Dod Mantle & Enrique Chediak
Best Editing, Jon Harris
Best Score, A.R. Rahman

LAS VEGAS FILM CRITICS SOCIETY SIERRA AWARDS
Announced: Dec. 16th

Wins:
Best Actor, James Franco

CHICAGO FILM CRITICS ASSOCIATIONAWARDS
Noms announced: Dec. 17th

Best Actor, James Franco

LONDON CRITICS’ CIRCLE AWARDS
Noms announced: Dec. 21st
Ceremony: Feb. 10th

British Film of the Year
British Director of the Year, Danny Boyle

OKLAHOMA FILM CRITICS CIRCLE
Announced: Dec. 23rd

Wins:
#10 in the top 10 films

ONLINE FILM CRITICS SOCIETY AWARDS
Noms announced: Dec. 27th

Best Director, Danny Boyle
Best Lead Actor, James Franco
Best Adapted Screenplay, Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy
Best Cinematography, Anthony Dod Mantle & Enrique Chediak
Best Editing, Jon Harris

CENTRAL OHIO FILM CRITICS ASSOCIATION AWARDS
Noms announced:
Jan. 3rd
Wins announced: Jan. 7th

Wins:
#7 on Top Ten List
Best Actor, James Franco
Actor of the Year (for an exemplary body of work), James Franco

Noms:
Best Film
Best Director, Danny Boyle
Best Cinematography, Enrique Chediak and Anthony Dod Mantle
Best Adapted Screenplay, Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy
Best Score, A.R. Rahman

VANCOUVER FILM CRITICS CIRCLE NOMINATIONS
Noms announced: Jan. 4th

Best Actor, James Franco

ALLIANCE OF WOMEN FILM JOURNALISTS AWARDS
Noms announced:
Dec. 22

Best Screenplay, Adapted, Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy
Best Editing, John Harris
Best Film Music Or Score, A.R. Rahman

EDA SPECIAL MENTION AWARDS:
Unforgettable Moment Award, Aron Ralston (James Franco) cuts off his arm.
Bravest Performance Award, James Franco

ART DIRECTORS GUILD EXCELLENCE IN PRODUCTION DESIGN AWARDS
Noms announced:
Jan 5th

Best Art Direction in a Contemporary Film, Suttirat Larlarb

USC SCRIPTER AWARDS
Noms annouced:
Jan 5th

Noms:
Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy for 127 HOURS, adapted from mountain climber Aron Ralston’s autobiography Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Romy Shiller is a pop culture critic and holds a PhD in Drama from the University of Toronto. Her academic areas of concentration include film, gender performance, camp and critical thought. She lives in Montreal where she continues her writing. All books are available online

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