Thursday, March 24, 2011

Imagining the unthinkable in Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours

This is a film that will stick with you for a while. It's not one of those you exchange a few lines over with a friend as you head out the cine and have forgotten by the time you reach the parking lot. It’s been a long time since I’ve been profoundly affected by a film, and director Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours did just that. The fact that the film is based on a true story makes the events portrayed even more visceral.

The plot is deceptively simple – a young thrill-seeker, Aaron Ralston (James Franco), finds himself trapped out in the inhospitable desert, miles from help. As the torturous hours pass, the young climber's situation becomes increasingly desperate.

The film was shot in the hauntingly beautiful rocky wasteland of Utah, and the setting emphasises how tiny and insignificant we humans are when we venture beyond city limits. Alone in the eerie, almost Martian landscape, Aaron is forced to come to grips with his fears, as well as face the harsh reality that nature is simply indifferent to his ordeal.

While there are a few supporting cast members, the stricken Aaron takes up most of the screen time, but despite this, I was not bored for one second. It’s easy to see why James Franco was nominated for an Oscar for this film: the tension remains taut and the actor does a superb job in conveying Aaron’s raw emotions as he struggles to escape the present situation and finds himself reminiscing about happier events.

The film takes viewers on an emotional roller-coaster and sighs of relief could be heard throughout the cinema when the closing credits rolled. I felt as if I had just spent days on the verge of death together with the main character. While this gripping thriller is a testament to the power of man’s endurance, it also conveys how fragile life is, and emphasises the notion that life is there to be lived and enjoyed.

Shot on a comparatively low budget of $18 million, this film is a refreshing change from the 3D-infused inanities that Hollywood has been churning out lately. Millions can be spent on special effects, but mere eye candy is not going to give a film substance. The excellent script and fine acting in 127 Hours have produced a story that strikes a poignant chord deep within viewers – something that most films today do not manage, if they even attempt it.