The movie 127 Hours is about how the instinctual drive to survive is usurped when faced with a life or death situation. The music pulsing in the background at the beginning of the movie is in harmony with this ideology, a chorus sung with the words, “There must be some chemical in our brain that makes us different from animals”, with background singers harmonizing an antithesis, “makes us all the same.” That thread of sameness, although we are different, is the will to survive when faced with the reality of death.
127 Hours is about a mountain climber, Aron Ralston, who decides to go to an isolated canyon in Utah without telling anyone where he was going. During the trip he becomes trapped, his hand wedged between a canyon wall and a boulder that refuses to budge. In order to survive Aron does the unthinkable, but in the process makes important self discoveries about the importance of family, friends and his present experience.
From the beginning of the movie we are introduced to a string of scenes that involve constant movement and individualism. Aron Ralston, who is the quintessential individualist who can do everything on his own, man as island; grabs his knapsack, water and food, and just misses reaching for his Swiss Army knife. As he leaves for his trip we hear remnants of his sister leaving a voice message asking Aron to call their mom, Aron leaves without following through.
Silence ensues and movement stops instantly at the very moment that the bolder traps Aron. Broken only after a few minutes wherein Aron’s instinctual spirit is usurped and you are met with the cry of the wild, man as animal. At this point and onward you are able to see the genius of the sound engineers of this movie. Nuanced sounds such as swallowing, drinking, licking the lips, blowing, and slight movements are so magnified that they come to life.
The cinematography of the movie is also outstanding. The close-ups of dripping water in the beginning, probably a foreshadowing of its future scarcity, and the shots of the innards of objects is unique. The close-up personal shots throughout the movie of Aron (James Franco) are very intimate; you feel, taste, smell, hear and experience every moment with Aron. The interweaving of the flashbacks, dreams, and premonitions into the plot were very organic and did not interrupt the flow of the scenes.
My only criticism is that is was hard to tell throughout the movie the differences between what was a dream, what was a memory and what was a premonition. However, this may actually be a strength of the movie, as it demonstrates authenticity. When you have not had food and proper water for several days everything in your mind collides and weaves together, even hallucinations form the fabric of your memories and dreams making distinction difficult.
127 Hours reflects the importance of family, friends, and the community. No man is an island. More importantly, it demonstrates that the instinctual drive to survive is in all of us and it is powerful. Even more importantly, it examines how our experiences in life can propel us to action and a life better lived.