Movie Review: 127 Hours

Posted on October 6, 2011. Filed under: Movies, Personal Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

If you know this true story keep reading on, if you don’t know the story and were hoping to see the movie then you may not want to read on as I will mention the outcomes, being that it’s based on a true-story this is only a semi-spoiler alert. Word to the wise on this one – if you dislike blood or are a bit squeamish this may not be the movie for you. That being said this film is not outright gory or disgusting but the central plot is about a man who is trapped a few hundred feet below ground as his arm is crushed by a boulder, there is blood and there is amputation, it’s a central plot that may disturb some.

I’m personally, not quite that squeamish and I really enjoyed the movie. I knew of the director Danny Boyle but hadn’t really thought much about his work one way or another until this film. All I have to say is ‘Wow’. This was an excellent movie, well done all around! If his other flicks are as visually intriguing and gripping then I am a huge fan!

For those that may not know, this is based on the true story of Aron Ralston, an avid canyoneer that was trapped for 127 hours in a Utah canyon. Aron was a bit of a cocky young fellow and didn’t tell anyone where he was headed, how long to expect him to be gone, went alone on this expedition, was in one of the most remote canyons in the US (miles from the nearest unpaved road) and in a dangerous area that is susceptible to quick flash floods from rain and warns that it can take hours for anything other than a ‘self rescue’ to happen should you stumble into danger. Don’t get me wrong, it seems like Aron was great at this hobby, but a little hubris would have done him well in this situation. Aron has a book detailing this expedition available called Between a Rock and a Hard Place ( http://www.amazon.com/Between-Rock-Hard-Place-Ralston/dp/0743492811 ).

With that back story being covered, the movie adaptation of this real-life survival story features James Franco as Aron. James Franco plays off the cool cockiness that Aron admits to having in his younger years, and overall Franco does an excellent job going through the emotions of a man left with two defeating choices: death or amputation.

The movie quickly moves into the central plot, within the first half-hour (give or take my timing) Franco is trapped in the canyon and his arm is wedged between the canyon and the boulder. He quickly puts the survival skills he has been taught into use. He knows with the amount of water he has left how much he needs to drink to survive and how long this will actually keep him alive. He also understands that he has a few options for trying to move the boulder – none of which are working but he seems careful to conserve his energy as much as possible. He isn’t armed with a great knife so his first amputation effort is short lived. He does have a camcorder and a camera so he records things the is thinking in case the end really is near – he wanted to preserve that he was thinking and the importance of those in his life.

During his time in the canyon we get some insightful glances into his thoughts. We are taking to memories past, premonitions of the future (children with a one-armed man), and recent memories of small things he could have changed if given the opportunity. There were many ‘if only I had done this …’ times and you really sympathize with him in those situations. Aron is finally at the breaking point and realizes after he ‘sees’ a child with a one-armed man that he wants children and he wants a life. He knows that is what he wants and he fully understands that in order to save himself he must do something nearly impossible to survive: amputate his own arm.

After the amputation he is free, but he still needs to get out of the canyon and hike to his car which is many miles away and then hopefully find help in a reasonable enough time. The desperation in his walking during this part is so apparent and you are really pulling for him to survive – the hardest part is over! Aron reflects back on this event in his life and realizes that life was worth living and fighting for and also realized that a little slice of humble pie will go a long way.

It is a tough way to learn that lesson but an important lesson to learn. Overall, the message within the movie really has you question your own will power and the choices you make on a daily basis. How many times do we inadvertently put ourselves in danger for no apparent reason?

The movie was very artistically shot and while the subject matter was extremely grim and dramatic the movie was compelling and visually stimulating. The director did a wonderful job splicing in multiple scenes into one screenshot to really get you inside his head. The music was also wonderful. It was a little unconventional but really worked. I would definitely watch this movie again, maybe not one I would own but I would watch it again. It was an excellent film and an excellent story, very motivating!

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Debriefing: Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer

Posted on February 9, 2009. Filed under: Books, Personal Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

Krakauer is an author who gets to the heart of issues that we all think about, and writes in a fashion that really not only paints a clear picture of the world he sees but also paints a picture of what he has learned and how he interprets this information. Mormonism is a religion that I know little about. I have been friends with Mormons and have seen their commercials on TV, but mostly I’ve heard the media continually batter and abuse them in a negative light. Krakuer’s title proves that the story does not look to find the holiness in the Mormons, but looks to seek the truth to why parts of their fundamentalist counterparts may turn violent and gives origins of the religion for those of us not raised in that faith.

The history of Mormonism starts with Joseph Smith in Palmyra New York. This is a story that I previously knew nothing about and was eager to hear more of. The early history of Mormonism clearly leaves non-Saints confused as to how this ‘American religion’ has gained so many followers but seems increasingly far-fetched. Krakauer works to consistently remind us that all religion is faith-based and requires followers and leaps of faith. What is striking about Mormons though and their history is that it is under 200 years old, and is completely recorded. Krakauer was able to research actual Mormon texts as well as speak to relatives of the Church founders. The history is complete and complex but completely related to the story as a whole. Additionally, it also shows that cover-ups happen and the Mormons are no different than other great leaders and may have pulled off some amazing coverups in America’s more modern history.

The focus on history is a backdrop of the story. It serves to teach us where they came from, where they have been and possibly serve to show where the church may be headed. The meat of this story focuses on the Lafferty Brothers and their gruesome murder of their sister-in law. Krakauer was fortunate to interview Dan Lafferty which created an interesting angle for the story. Lafferty is an admitted cold-blooded murderer, yet he was also a Mormon. Hearing Lafferty’s viewpoints as a former Mormon fundamentalist are gripping and really make you consider what type of hold this religion has placed over many Americans. Admittedly I think of Mormons as the good kids who seldom, if ever swear, don’t watch movies rated “R” or with extreme profanity, attend church daily, pray more than daily, and live their life for God and the betterment of their people. I would never associate Mormons with murder but fundamentalism can create deviations in the faith that may lead members to kill for God.

The Lafferty Brothers did just that – they killed their sister-in law for God, to support His divine mission and wishes. The tale is retold in a very detailed manner, and while the murders and wrong doings by members of the Fundamentalist sects of the Latter Day Saints (FLDS) are the focus of the book it was really mostly about how the church split and how these sects not only got their power but how the ‘main church’ (LDS) and its leaders may have paved the way for such extremism. The history is the building block that allows outsiders to learn that the LDS church was started quickly and grew even quicker and from the get-go experienced violence both brought upon them and then returned to the outside world.  The LDS church has had to fight to keep it sanctioned by the US and even moved from the far east coast to the far western United States and has branched into Mexico and Canada as well. While the main LDS church has undergone some ‘renovations’ of their scriptures and what is practiced the FLDS focuses on the original documents that created the faith, the most exploited being polygamy.

Polygamy is the giant elephant when discussing FLDS sects. We have seen some of these mothers on the TV, crying because their children have been taken, one of a few other wives with many children. Men who forcibly marry young girls as young as 15 and having as many as 64 children. Krakauer explores the effects of this on the culture as well as how hard the LDS church and its founding leaders fought to keep this principle active and alive. Much of his research included texts written by young women forced into polygamous relationships at an early age and their efforts to break free. The polygamy revelation was a secret to all but Joseph Smith and his closest companions for a long time, but was then revealed to the fellow Saints and didn’t initially spread like expected. The US government always gave the church pressure to withdraw this practice and reminded the Mormons that polygamy was not sanctioned by the US government. Krakuer highlights the violent tales that have spattered the Mormon past as they tried to make their own laws and ways, and insisted to the government that they could not answer to any laws other than the laws of God. Krakauer displays the history when innocent lives were taken by Mormons who wanted respect and power from the US government and then the cover-ups that followed.

There are moments when Krakauer paints the Mormons as a group who was reckless, careless and while they meant good they had their own interests and would stop at very little to accomplish them. At the same time though Krakauer makes you feel passionate about the Mormons and reminds you of the history when the Americans would ‘hunt’ the Mormons and terrorized them when their numbers grew too large. It is a dramatic history that is still evolving and the Lafferty murders are simply a way for Krakauer to highlight the ways that the church has changed and the ways that FLDS sects control their people with outdated principles as well as chilling ways to show their faith.

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