Thursday, October 14, 2010

127 Hours.

127 Hours (Danny Boyle, 2010)

Note: A bit of a treat today on the blog, as known FOTB Micah Lubens, thanks to his web2.0 savvy (he’s all over the tweets) snagged us two tickets to an advance screening of this movie (which opens November 5), followed by a Q+A with director Danny Boyle. (I was escorted from this Q+A after breaking into a loud rendition of the song “Danny Boy,” featuring slightly modified lyrics, as he began answering the first question.) My previously lax SPOILER policy is hereby unlaxed for this post alone. However, let’s get this out of the way: 127 Hours is based on a true story. Anyone who knows anything about the story knows why it is notable, why it has been made into a movie, and how it ends. I kind of have to talk about it, to a certain extent (although I won’t go into that much detail). If you somehow don’t know what I’m talking about here, but still want to see this movie, I’d advise you to stop reading right now. And also to quit being such a weirdo.

Category: Sad movies about extreme outdoorsy types and the consequences of their extreme outdoorsiness. I recall the first X Games happening when I was younger. I also vaguely recall, at some point, a controversy in which parents were worried that kids were going to go recreate all the stunts on their skateboards or whatever. In retrospect, this all seems like a classic case of parents not understanding the fact that prohibiting things only makes them more attractive to kids. I say they should’ve let the kids watch, especially the gruesome accidents. (Also, does anyone care about the X Games anymore? Did anyone care in the first place? I sure didn’t.) Yet there are many among us who are driven to push their bodies to the limit. These efforts often result in tragedy (although my mother would probably say that they deserved it for being so stupid, a view that I find myself agreeing with more and more as I get older). Other films that capture these (arguably) tragic stories are Into the Wild and Grizzly Man.

My familiarity with this issue: I lived in a double-wide trailer in the woods of southern West Virginia for a year. But make no mistake about it: this experience was the exception to the rule that is my life. I am not an outdoorsman. I am on record as having the goal of staying indoors for as great a percentage of my life as is humanly possible. I don’t even like to sit outside at restaurants. As for pushing my body to the limit, I often feel like the mere act of getting out of bed in the morning does this. I am a frail, sickly, weak, pale shell of a man, and I have more ailments and diseases than most eighty-year-olds. My recent foray into a local rec soccer league has left me at death’s door during and after each of our three games so far. I'm starting to look into this whole "iron lung" thing.

But srsly though. I frequently become indignant at what I perceive to be the arrogance of the outdoorsy community. Maybe this is just my own hypersensitivity talking, but I have known many people who flaunt their adventurousness, and look down on us calmer folks who don’t have the energy or desire or pretentiousness to commune with nature or run three triathlons a month or whatever. As if these people are somehow better or wiser or more attuned to things than the rest of us. It’s a load of bullshit. Even the terminology here bugs me: “thrill-seeker,” for example. Since when did base-jumping lunatics corner the market on seeking thrills? Don’t we all do that? Isn’t that kind of what life is all about? Some find thrills in climbing a mountain, others find them at Chipotle. Different strokes. And furthermore, this is America, a country founded on the principle of I don’t have to do a goddamn thing if I don’t want to. Don’t even get me started here.

What I thought of the movie: (The one SPOILER thing I was talking about earlier is in this paragraph.) Oh boy. Ohhhh boy. That was some intense stuff. Really emotionally exhausting and gripping and all that, if not strictly sad. I really don’t want to talk too much about it because I think you all should see it. James Franco is really awesome as Aron Ralston, and it’s a good thing that he is, because the success of the movie is pretty much entirely based on his performance. (I’m not just saying this because I have a man-crush on James Franco that is only rivaled by my man-crush on Jon Hamm. Some fine men, those two.) I was really impressed by it, and I really think that those of you out there who aren’t too squeamish should see it. (There were a number of such people in the theater. I could tell from the frequent loud groans and gasps and loud utterances of the people around me. Now, without giving too much away, let me acknowledge that it is not an easy movie to watch. But you have to know going in that it is about a man who LITERALLY CUTS HIS OWN ARM OFF. And so there are certain people who shouldn’t see it. This isn’t a hard concept. For example, I don’t like eating, praying, or loving. None of those three. You know where this joke is going.)

How I, John Krizel, related to the movie: We’ve been over my own lack of physical prowess. So it should come as no surprise here that I had difficulty relating to this movie/Aron Ralston. Even before the terrible ordeal that lasts the titular amount of time, Ralston does about a dozen things that I could never even remotely do. Biking, hiking, wearing a baseball cap without fussing with his hair every five seconds. Stuff like that. And so then he got stuck down there, and we were down there with him for quite a long time, at least half of the movie, and… yeah. I couldn’t even imagine. It actually did make me upset.

127 Hours is the kind of movie that demands that you ask yourself the question, “How would I fare under such conditions?” It forces us to put ourselves in his shoes because of how thoroughly it describes his shoes, so to speak. And in so doing it forced me, at least, to confront my own shortcomings as a human animal head-on, not in a glib way like I did a few paragraphs ago, but real nitty-gritty-like. I have never had to deal with a situation as dire as Aron Ralston’s, and Lord willing I will never have to. I’m not saying that we all should, or could, have the fortitude or cojones or whatever it is he had; it wouldn’t have been as remarkable a story if that were the case. And I’m pretty certain that I will never be stranded in a remote canyon for five days with no food and barely any water, miles and miles from other human beings, with my arm trapped by a giant immovable rock (a situation that, my mom would argue, was entirely of his own making). But what about if I was in a fire, or a car accident, or a plane crash? What if I walking down the street and witnessed a fire or a car accident or a plane crash? What if I was in some situation that forced me to think quickly and act bravely to save my own life, or the lives of others? What would happen then? And I don’t know. Maybe some people know, but I don’t. I really don’t. And that, to me, is troubling.

How I felt after the movie ended: I mean, we all know how the story ends. And for a while after it ended (at least all throughout Danny Boyle’s delightfully charming Q+A), I was kind of uplifted. It’s an emotionally exhausting kind of movie; you feel physically relieved when it’s over. But then I got to thinking about the stuff in the previous paragraph, and it did kind of make me depressed, maybe as depressed as I’ve felt after any movie I’ve watched so far.

It’s funny how that is, isn’t it? Not to use a cliché here, but this is a story about the triumph of the human spirit. And the human spirit triumphing is all well and good, but it doesn’t always happen. Sometimes people die. Sometimes people aren’t heroic. Sometimes they’re cowardly, and because of that, people die. We can’t all measure up to heroes like Aron Ralston; that’s what makes them heroes. And while most of us go through our lives lucky enough to avoid having to actually deal with this, some of us, at some point or another, will have to answer the call. So all I can do in response to a movie like 127 Hours is just steer clear of big, unstable-looking rocks, and hope for the best.


  1. a triumph of the human spirit/escaping scary stuff is particularly apropos now, in light of the miners being rescued. that would have made me more sensitive/more likely to cry my eyes out over this film.

    also, my dad's name is aron, the only aron with one "a" that i know aside from this dude. my dad did not cut off his own arm, but he did whittle the moses stick that cameron used in angels.

  2. Pauline K & I just read this aloud and we love it. We aren't depressed; we relate. As fellow non-outdoors-y (and Chipotle fans) we completely support your gripes against the pretentiousness of the thrill-seeker community. Keep up the good work!