The Academy Award-winning director has crafted another startling, raw and certainly Oscar-tempting achievement with “127 Hours,” based on the true story of hiker Aron Ralston who after a tumble in a canyon found himself with one arm trapped between an unmovable boulder and a ravine wall. Despite its unwittingly stationary protagonist (James Franco, in the performance of his career), the film is surprisingly kinetic, expansive, harrowing and wildly cinematic.
Boyle tells PopcornBiz he was committed to breaking the story open and exploring it from every dramatic angle, while staying largely faithful to Ralton’s true-life experiences.
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“You’ve got to take control of it,” said Boyle. “You’ve got to brief yourself completely, immerse yourself in it, have this idea that you will respect his story ultimately and then make your own version of it. I’m a big believer in that, otherwise it’s a TV survival story…We want to see drama told in a cathartic way, with power, with emotion, where you empathize and then you’re frightened. All those feelings charge up in you and you feel for the story.”
(Major SPOILER about to drop like a large rock)
The director knew he’d also have deal to with THAT scene, the agonizing, wince-inducing one the media and audiences would be buzzing about, where Ralston has to make a crucial decision about the fate of his pinioned right arm.
“If you tell it well, you have a point suddenly where it just focuses into a scene, which I guess in this one is the amputation, where people can put all sorts of their feeling in it,” he said. “Some people are exhilarated in it, shouting, “Yes!” like that and other people can’t look. Other people are almost faint. People are breathless. I sat behind a couple of guys who were humming all the way through it, “hmm hmm hmm” like this. That’s what drama’s about. It’s that power you can get through it, it’s a wonderful opportunity but you have to take your own control of it.”
“Actually it’s a passageway, that scene,” he added, “to something else that’s much more important than it. He did leave something behind obviously, but what he gained was so much more than what was left behind, so it’s a doorway really to something much more important. But inevitably people concentrate on it, and we knew that going in. Whether the film was successful or not, or well told or not, inevitably there’d be incredible focus on that scene. So we told it as truthfully as we could.”
“The most important thing is that there is a story in there about where he’s going,” said Boyle. “It’s not about a brutal act. It is brutal but it is about where he’s going, not about the moment itself and that helped him get through it. You mustn’t sensationalize that by adding gore or making it too Hammer house of horror, but nor must you trivialize it by making it look too easy or too simple or not painful enough really. So that’s what we tried to do.”