I am a documentaries person and specially biographies. So when friends suggested this movie I sure wanted to check it out.
We took our place and settled in our seats as Dad commented "This place is empty". Yes this movie is for us not the love story watchers. That is another reason for me to love such movies you get the whole theater for yourself, almost!
The movie starts with Canyonlands National Park in Utah. I loved the racing pace. He is a mountain climber and knows this Park like a second home. The camera pans around the orange landscape as he crashes through the terrain. The free spirited guy hardly informs anyone where he is going like most youngsters his age.
He sets a target for himself to go off track and cut down on the time mentioned in the guide book. Bumps into girls who seem to have lost their way. Shows them the way and the blue pool. This scene is a creative addition by the screenplay writers to the Biography of the real hero Aron Ralston. Makes good visuals. So do the shots of the insides of a hydration pack and bottle. Not natural shots but creative nevertheless.
I almost experienced the love the character feels for the rocks as he caresses them while gliding across. A true explorer hates doing things straight and risks it through a crevice. He knows well and in the previous scenes tells the lost girls, "Things are always moving here". As he is descending, a small boulder does move just behind him. As he almost touches ground he realizes his right hand is jammed by the boulder.
Here begins the 127 hours of survival... He shouts for help form the crevice. The camera zooms out to shows how impossible it is for anyone to hear him or locate him. At first he copes with it trying to push the boulder with all his might. Makes pulleys to get it inching just a bit. He has a swiss knife that he uses to chisel the rock but as the rock loosens the jammed hand gets further stuck. As he notes that the hand is already dead he tries to cut it with the blunt knife unsuccessfully making him swear "Never buy made in China". Follows the interval.
I ponder on Danny Boyle's storytelling and technique. He shows signs of Bollywood influence this I say not because he made Slumdog millionaire. You note how he uses the flash back technique to weave the story further. The music by A R Rehman is anything but Bollywood.
Well the flashbacks are the best technique to show how life flashes in all it's brilliance when you are on the edge of life and death. The guy carves his own tombstone writing on the sides of the mountain. Memories of the intimate moments with his girlfriend, cherished ones of parents. The Dad who introduces and nurtures his passion of the rocks. The loving mother, sister and friends everything comes to him in a flash as he is loosing it but he hangs in there. Gets inspiration to live and go back to them. He sees his future in front of him premonition like. While all this is happening he is recording everything on camera.
Finally those moments of survival are all there, living on his urine, not being able to poop as he has not eaten for days. The realization that the blunt knife that cannot cut the skin is useless when he has to cut the bone. So he decides to break the bones, stabs his hand and cuts through the flesh. The emotions portrayed by James Franco are raw, watching him is a treat. His moving through the character from the charming guy to the basest emotions that show when he almost reaches down to stroke himself as he replays the videos of the playfulness at the blue pool with the girls. The extreme pain when the blunt knife is not able to slash the nerves and he tugs at them to break the rest of his arm free from the rock that is jamming it. Superb James Franco!
The realization of a survivor that he has chosen all this rather he was destined for this ordeal as he races through his life's events, is a learning for a spiritual person in me. Even when he has resigned to death he manages to free his hand finally. Takes a picture of the forearm still jammed in the rock for memories sake! and walks out till he gets rescued by a family and emergency help is brought in.
One time the director manages to take us through a ride high on emotions as we see a dramatic sky and landscape, a storm and floods and see him freed only to realize it was a flashback. You almost gasp at the sights, sound and situation!
The movie ends with an update on the real hero and telling us that his premonition came true. What a movie!