Telluride Film Festival: 127 Hours

By Guest Blogger KEV

This September I was lucky enough to be gainfully employed by the one and only SHOW: the 37th Annual Telluride Film Festival. I was a production manager for the festival, and spent most of my time moving heavy things and pretending to know how to use power tools. I wish I was kidding, but I’m not, and it was just as glamorous as it sounds. Truly, I loved every minute of working for the festival, especially the perk of my all access staff pass that let me cut the lines and watch films until I couldn’t see straight. Another bonus was that in Telluride there is REAL butter on the popcorn. But I digress. One thing that is important to know before reading this review in its entirety — I am not a true “film” person. I don’t know a lot about random old movies or even use the word “film” comfortably without thinking I sound ridiculous. I was there to have a good time, not to be a critic. I do feel like I know more about films and how to interpret them from this experience, but let me be clear: I was at the Telluride MOVIE Festival. I was able to see a ton of really great movies — from obscure documentaries to many of this year’s whispered Oscar contenders.

One that holds a special place in my heart and that I feel warrants a review is Danny Boyle’s latest movie “127 Hours.” So let’s begin. “127 Hours” is the story of Aron Ralston, an avid outdoorsman, former Obama volunteer (major points), wildlife and open lands activist, and all around great guy who fell, literally, into a bad situation a few years ago while mountaineering in Utah. It stars the multi-talented James Franco, and chronicles Aron’s 127 hour stint stuck in a canyon where he did everything he possibly could to survive — including cutting off his own arm. The backdrop of the film is the wildly beautiful landscape of Moab, Utah, with orange dirt and stunning rock formations and, sadly for Aron, hundreds of miles of unihabited national parks. James Franco does an excellent job of capturing the hubris that is particular to mountain men: they think they can go into the wild, on their own, and often forget or disregard the cardinal rule of outdoor adventure: always leave a note to let someone know where you’re going. Aron quickly found out what its like to be truly alone.

Which leads me to my next point: this story, as compelling as it is, poses many problems when it comes to film translation. How can you make a movie about one guy, all alone, and make all 127 hours of his struggle worth watching? Danny Boyle succeeds in not only keeping all 127 hours worth watching, but also in keeping audience members on the edge of their seats for the entirety of the movie. You know what is going to happen, and you know when, but you can’t stop watching. Boyle says that his goal was to make audience members go through the experience with Aron, and the movie truly does take you on his journey.

Three people passed out from stress and exhaustion at screenings in Telluride, and I personally left drenched in the sweat of anticipation and the tears of relief. Boyle frames the movie in a way that is unexpected for a wilderness setting: its fast paced, funny, and seamlessly moves from Aron’s moods of delirium to clarity and back again with the use of flashbacks, dreams, hallucinations, and a bumping soundtrack. James Franco perfectly depicts Aron’s moments of recognition by recreating the scenes Aron filmed in the canyon on his own video camera. When he realizes he didn’t tell anyone where he was going, you, too, feel the pang of regret. Hopelessness starts to sneak into your brain just as it must have snuck into Aron’s. But just like Aron didn’t, you don’t give up. Gory amputation scene and all, this movie is a story about the indomitable human spirit and how the relationships we have with each other can bring us out of even the darkest of times. “127 Hours” shows us that even if you think its impossible, you can do it. Aron’s story is not about pain and suffering and enduring, its about believing that there is something better waiting for you on the other side.

“127 Hours” opens on November 5, 2010.


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