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A mountain climber becomes trapped under a boulder while canyoneering alone near Moab, Utah and resorts to desperate measures in order to survive.
For more about 127 Hours and the 127 Hours Blu-ray release, see 127 Hours Blu-ray Review published by Casey Broadwater on March 1, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: James Franco, Kate Mara, Amber Tamblyn, Clémence Poésy, Lizzy Caplan, Kate Burton
Director: Danny Boyle
» See full cast & crew
127 Hours Blu-ray Review
Or, let’s see if I can go 127 seconds without using the word “disarming.”
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, March 1, 2011
If you've ever dropped your cell phone into the toilet, locked your keys in the car, or blurted out something you really shouldn't have said, you know what it feels like to wish you could rewind time for just a few seconds and have a do-over. Extreme outdoorsman Aron Ralston had one of those moments in 2003, only his stakes were much higher than most of us will ever experience. While hiking into Utah's remote Blue John Canyon, Ralston made a misstep and dislodged a boulder the size of a large snowman's bottom section, pinned his right arm to the rock wall. Adding to his regrets, he had told no one where he was going that day, he had brought only one 32oz. water bottle, and he had forgotten his trusty Swiss Army knife. Somehow, Ralston survived for five days trapped in the canyon, but mere survival wasn't enough—he needed to escape. Knowing that rescue was unlikely and that death was imminent, he did the unthinkable, sawing off his arm below the elbow with a cheap, dull, Chinese-knockoff multipurpose tool. It's an against-all-odds survival story that forces you to ask the question: Could I do the same?
Scottish director Danny Boyle has compressed Ralston's 127-hour ordeal into 94 minutes of harrowing, gripping cinema. Boyle has described the film as "an action movie with a guy who can't move," and that's very much the case. Although early scenes explode with energy as Aron—flawlessly portrayed by James Franco—barrels across the John Ford-esque terrain on a mountain bike and hooks up with some trail-hiking cuties for a recklessly spontaneous underground lake-diving session, once Aron tumbles into the ravine to find himself trapped, most of the rest of the story takes place in this single cramped location, a section of canyon about a yard wide. And yet, this limitation has a freeing, expansive effect on the film. This small stretch of cave becomes Aron's entire universe, and every sound, movement, and emotion is heightened, from the ants that crawl across his skin and the agony of thirst to the hawk that passes repetitively overhead and the glorious 15-minutes of sunshine he gets every morning. This is filmmaking through a narrative macro-lens, acutely focused on giving its audience a vicarious experience of Ralston's introspection and isolation. It's brutally effective. Using the same tiny, versatile digital cameras the director used on his previous film, 2009 Best Picture Slumdog Millionaire, Boyle has his DPs—Anthony Dod Mantle and Enrique Chediak—shoot from every imaginable angle, capturing the ongoing trauma with often unsettling intimacy. Franco's face looms large in the frame, his lips increasingly more chapped, his voice growing raspier. As he looks into his camcorder and says his goodbyes to his parents, we see the desperation of a man who knows he's likely going to die.
This is easily Franco's best performance to date, well deserving of the Oscar nomination he received for it this year. The writer, actor, perennial grad students and jack of all artistic trades carries the film, not effortlessly—that would probably be boring—but with satisfying effort, embodying the duality that defines Aron Ralston, a real-life character who's a close thematic cousin to Into the Wild's Christopher McCandless. On one side, Aron is high off of life, a charismatic charmer who gets his kicks traipsing off into the wilderness alone. On the other, he's careless, unprepared, and arrogant—at 28, the glittery invincibility of youth has yet to wear off. When confronted with his own mortality, however, Ralston makes far smarter decisions than McCandless, who died in the Alaskan wilderness in the misguided transcendental pursuit of complete detachment from society. Aron, no ideologue, devotes himself to sheer survival, and Boyle—along with co-writer Simon Beaufoy, working off of Ralston's memoir—guides us through the trapped hiker's every decision. We see him taking inventory of his backpack's contents and devising an intricate pulley system in an attempt to move the jammed boulder. We watch as he painfully rations his water, eventually resorting to drinking his own urine. Chipping away at the rock proves futile. No help is coming. As dehydration sets in, Boyle shows us Aron's premonitions, flashbacks, fever dreams, and nightmares, which I won't discuss here, except to mention that after watching the film you may never see Scooby Doo the same way again.
Of course, all of this culminates in Aron's life-or-death determination to hack off his own arm. The dramatic suspense here is not about what is going to happen—you already know if you kept up with the news in 2003—but when and how and whether or not you'll be able to sit through it without passing out. Audience members reportedly fainted at several screenings, so be forewarned—Boyle doesn't pull any punches. It's one thing to see this kind of gruesome amputation in the context of a horror film, but presented in a non-exploitive setting—as something that actually happened—it's much more traumatizing. Along with the expected bone-breaking and flesh-rending, Boyle repeatedly jolts us with one of the most jarring sound effects I've ever heard in a film, a squall of feedback that rips down your spinal cord every time Aron tries to cut through a nerve. I know what the more squeamish amongst you are thinking: Why would I want to subject myself to this? The answer is simple—skip 127 Hours and you'll miss out on one of the best films of 2010. Granted, it's not a perfect film, but few films are. Boyle occasionally indulges in some gimmicky, largely unnecessary camera tricks—like filming from the inside of a water bottle—and the emotional backbone he tries to construct out of Aron's relationship with his ex (Clémence Poésy) is flimsy at best, but these are flaws that can be easily overlooked. With a tour-de-force performance by James Franco, 127 Hours is a moving example of human willpower and perseverance in the face of almost certain death. Give it a shot, but keep the smelling salts handy.
127 Hours Blu-ray, Video Quality
I have no doubt that the 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer for 127 Hours will be among the best of 2011, not just for being true to its high definition digital video source, but also because the image is simply stunning—vivid and sharp, with sculpted contrast, all coming together for a picture with real depth and presence. The film was shot primarily with the same Silicon Imaging SI-2K digital cameras that Boyle and cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle used on Slumdog Millionaire, and the results they get here are just as strong, if not better. Clarity is exceptionally refined, revealing every nuance of Aron's cramped canyon quarters. The contours of the rock face, small bits of sand, the individual threads on Aron's baseball cap, the flaky, dried-out texture of his chapped lips—it's all nearly tactile. Color is equally intense, especially in the above-ground scenes before and after Aron gets trapped, where Boyle shows us broad expanses of craggy Utah landscape, with aquamarine skies over nearly orange desert. Black levels are solid and contrast is perfect. I did notice a single instance of slight aliasing/shimmer during a high aerial shot of the desert below, but otherwise there are no noticeable compression/encode quirks. I really can't imagine the film looking any better than it does here.
127 Hours Blu-ray, Audio Quality
127 Hours' DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track is nearly just as impressive. Much of the mix relies on the loneliness of unsettling silence, but there are also some effective uses of minute sounds that you'd rarely hear in any other film, like the click-click of an ant's feet as moves across Aron's hand. Rear channel ambience is quiet and unobtrusive, but you will hear some crackling peels of thunder and pouring rain at one point, and some of Aron's hallucinations are accompanied by clever uses of the soundfield, like when we hear a beer being poured somewhere in the space behind our heads. Where this track really shines is its music—which all sounds full, rich, and immersive—from the semi-ironic use of the 1970s soul hit "Lovely Day" to the triumphant strains of Icelandic export Sigur Ros, the go-to band for lending a scene a sense of spiritual majesty. A.H. Rahman's original score is fantastic as well, especially during the amputation scene, where it rises to an almost unbearable frenzy, complete with one of the most jarring sound effects I've ever heard in a film—a squall of feedback that blares anytime Aron hits a nerve. I get chills just thinking about it. Dialogue is clean and clear through, and for those that need or want them, English SDH, Spanish, French, and Portuguese subtitles are available in easy-to-read lettering.
127 Hours Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Some of you were probably hoping for some real footage from Aron Ralston's adventure—to be honest, I was too—but I can understand why Ralston wouldn't want to make that material public. Still, there are some great supplements on this disc, especially the audio commentary and making-of documentary.
127 Hours Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Although it didn't win any of the Oscars it was nominated for—Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score, Best Original Song, and Best Film Editing—127 Hours is one of the best films of the year, a remarkable true story of survival featuring a career-defining performance by James Franco. Fox Searchlight's Blu-ray is also a winner, with a stunning high definition transfer, a solid audio track, and a few great extras. Highly recommended!
127 Hours: Other Editions
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127 Hours Blu-ray, News and Updates
• This Week on Blu-ray - March 1-7 - March 1, 2011
At this point, it almost goes without saying, but Disney has once again outdone themselves with today's Diamond Edition Blu-ray release of Bambi. The company repeatedly shows the utmost respect and dedication to the animated classics that film fans hold so dear, ...
• 127 Hours Blu-ray Announced - January 26, 2011
Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment has announced 127 Hours for Blu-ray release on March 1. Based on true events and nominated for six Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Actor (James Franco), 127 Hours follows Aron Ralston, a dare-devil outdoorsman ...
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