AWFJ Women On Film – “127 Hours” – Review by Susan Granger

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Watching parts of “127 Hours” is agony, sheer agony – and viscerally compelling.

After his resounding success with “Slumdog Millionaire,” director Danny Boyle tackles the true survival story of mountain climber Aron Ralston’s courage after a fallen boulder crashes on his arm, trapping him in isolated Bluejohn Canyon, just outside Canyonlands National Park in southeastern Utah.

Opening with a prologue about two fun-loving hikers, Kristi and Megan (Kate Mara, Amber Tamblyn), actor James Franco (“Eat Pray Love”) – in a tour-de-force performance – establishes Ralston’s character as an engineering student from Aspen, Colorado, an adrenaline junkie who’s passionate about extreme sports. Then an accident on Saturday, April 26, 2003, presents a life-challenging dilemma. Dressed in a T-shirt and shorts, he’s planning to spend the day riding his mountain bike and climbing the red rocks and sandstone. Ralston rides 15 miles, then locks his bike to a juniper tree and takes off, carrying a backpack containing two burritos, less than a liter of water, an imitation Leatherman multi-tool, two cameras, rock-climbing gear and small First Aid kit. As he’s testing his weight on a huge rock, it gives way and crushes him in a crevasse.

Over the next five days, resourceful Ralston goes through all five psychological stages of grief, surreally recalling pivotal moments in his life, often involving his family or with an ex-girl friend (Clemence Poesy). The final stage of grief is acceptance, resulting in Ralston’s grisly, gruesome decision to amputate his right forearm below the elbow.

Written by Boyle and Simon Beaufoy (collaborators on “Slumdog Millionaire”), it’s based on Aron Ralston’s book “Between a Rock and a Hard Place” and it’s feverishly photographed by Anthony Dod Mantle and Enrique Chediak, continually changing camera angles to avoid confining claustrophobia, and aided by A.H. Rahman’s stylized synthpop score. Since Ralston brought a camcorder along that day, some of the footage is presented as if he were documenting what happened himself.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “127 Hours” is an intense, nerve-wracking, terrifying 9, building to an emotional climax.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.