Saturday, February 26, 2011

127 Hours (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway
127 Hours

"127 Hours" the new film by Danny Boyle, recalls "Into the Wild", Sean Penn's docudrama about Christopher McCandless' vow to live in Alaska and shun modern society. Like Emile Hirsch in the role of McCandless, James Franco portrays Aron Ralston as a handsome, cocky (but not arrogant) free spirit who wants to dive right into Nature and climb the huge arcing canyon of Blue John in Utah. Ralston doesn't destroy his credit cards and social security number like McCandless, but there is something a bit odd. Ralston told no one of his trek. His mother calls the day before and he ignores the call. Instead he gets in his truck and drives to Utah. Ralston is part Knievel, part Lance Armstrong with a hint of Johnny Knoxville thrown in. Ralston crashes his bike, hits the base of a rock with a crack and giggles raucously. He takes a picture with his camera. Perhaps, as we later learn, there is a clue to be found in Ralston's childhood. It is shown that he is raised in a suburban neighborhood in Colorado. His parents are just a bit withdrawn. Might there be something in the control of suburbia that leads one to explore the savage sensuality of the wild?

Ralston walks faster and faster through hard rocky canyons. His iPod is as organic to him as his legs and he is seen as a kind of   sonic explorer, racing through serpentine paths as he surfs through tunes.  The film's musical score by Bollywood Maestro A.R. Rahman is as raucous and frenetic as James Franco's immersion into the West. The canyons also have their own sound.

When Ralston starts his trip, all is fun and flirtation. He could almost be an adventurous college kid on an Eco-vacation. He meets two young girls, Megan and Kristi who are lost, played by Amber Tamblyn and Kate Mara. There is just a bit of sexual tension in the air. ("I'm not a serial killer," Ralston says, "only on weekdays").  After a free wheeling splurge in a lagoon, with the girls,  Ralston takes his handsome leave and jogs into the sun. Suddenly, there is a silence. Vast empty space. A largish boulder. This might be the first horror film custom made for The Sierra Club. The crevice, deep in the winding canyon has as much fearful personality as the shark in "Jaws". Instead of sharp teeth there is a splitting crack. Within seconds Ralston's arm is encased in rock. At first, he turns into a driven man, hurling his shoulder against the rock with commando ferocity but to no avail. He is stuck. The hours pass. Ralston's lays his  meager wares on the rock with the precision of a doctor. Again his music is of primary importance. What follows is a Survivalist Rave with eye-popping colorful visuals and hyper-driving music.

This is a canyon-bound Bollywood. If he wasn't trapped, Franco just might Disco--his mind certainly does. Never has a bottle of Gatorade been so sound-quenching or delicious. Even the ants here have a drive for conspiracy or sinister boogie.

 The Canyon becomes Ralston's reflective Bodhi tree, and he takes us on his inner travels thru his parental detachment, his breakup with a girlfriend and his desire for romance. Sexual temptations beam from some flirtatious video left in his recorder. Time is short. After a cracking storm, he drinks the last of his water. The water bottle resembles the barrel of a gun. Ralston drinks his urine. Under director Danny Boyle this unseemly act seems space age and futuristic. Even exciting in its surreal disgust.

Then he goes to work on his arm with a pliers.

Danny Boyle makes the confined canyon sensual, interactive, filled with sound and motion. By using a variety of film influences: The hijinx of Bollywood, the apprehension of a horror film and the snap of an Spielberg cliffhanger, Boyle gives an insect-eyed tribute to Ralston's unthinkable ordeal.

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