Culture Club Film Review: 127 Hours

I was beginning to wonder if “127 Hours” would ever come to Arkansas. The film, which was recently nominated for six Academy Awards, came out in the fall of 2010. It was slow to move out of selected cities, though, due to underperformance. The lack of popular success was due in no small part to the graphic scenes which turned many audience members off.

However, squeamish audience members should not avoid “127 Hours.” Yes, the film is hard to watch at times, but it is also inspirational and uplifting. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the story, “127 Hours” follows the true story of explorer Aron Ralston in his 2003 rock climbing nightmare. Ralston chronicled his experience in the novel “Between a Rock and a Hard Place.” The story is fairly simple. Man goes hiking. Man enjoys adventure. Crater falls on man. Man goes to hell and back to get free.

James Franco and Clémence Poésy / IMDb

“Slumdog Millionaire” Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle brings the story to life in a similar style and scope to that of “Slumdog.” From a cinematography, score, and editing perspective, “127 Hours” looks like the twin sister of “Slumdog.” That being said, I would argue that it is far better than “Slumdog.” Whereas “Slumdog” felt contrived to me, “127 Hours” feels natural and organic.

It’s that natural and organic story that has turned many viewers off. As has been well documented, a crater fell on Ralston and pinned his arm to the side of a cliff. Ralston was stuck there for days before making the agonizing decision to amputate his own arm with a small pocket multi-tool. While pinned, Ralston documented his situation with a camera and video camera. As the hours passed, Ralston became more and more desperate to get out of the horrible situation. Flashbacks reminded him of what he was living for.

James Franco / IMDb

The film reminds me a bit of “Cast Away.” The journey is similar in that it follows one man and his struggles. However, this film moves at a much faster pace and feels less constricting and confined, which is odd given that “127 Hours” takes place within a tiny, cramped space.

James Franco, a Best Actor nominee, is a revelation in the role that finally matches up with his insane talent. I must admit that I had no desire to watch the film. I had heard the rumors about the now-famous amputation scene. The truth is, the scene is hard to watch and quite graphic. However, it is short and well handled. The film is elegant and truly inspiring.

I am glad I invested the time to actually watch the film. It wasn’t always easy, but the lesson about overcoming hardship and tremendous adversity is a welcome surprise in a year filled with somewhat dark or cynical material. Yes, it resembles “Slumdog” a bit too much, but it is well worth your time. Just make sure to hide your eyes for a few minutes, here and there.

Grade: B+

Wayne Bell is a regular contributor for the Fayetteville Flyer. He moved to Fayetteville in 2003 for his Master’s Degree and you can almost always catch him at Little Bread Co. or Hammontree’s. For more of Wayne’s contributions, visit his author page.