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The biographical drama film 127 hours, composed by Danny Boyle, is the true story of canyoneer Aaron Ralston’s remarkable journey to save himself after a fallen boulder crashes on his arm and traps him in an isolated canyon in Utah. Over the next 127 hours, Ralston examines his life and explores both a physical and inner journey when deciding whether he will die or fight for survival. The exploration of Ralston’s physical journey and the obstacles and challenges he must overcome are effectively demonstrated through the catalyse film.
Tracking shots follow Ralston on his bike as he begins his escapade through the canyons of Utah. This technique makes audiences feel like they are part of the journey as they move along with him in constantly changing perspectives. The cross cutting technique is also used on two alternating shots of Ralston on his bike – one through an easy, flat surface in contrast to a difficult and steep mountain.
This demonstrates that there are difficult challenges that must be undertaken on journeys and additionally suggests that this journey is taking place simultaneously.
Along his way, Aaron meets and guides a couple of young, female hikers. His ecstatic energy towards broadening his horizons on his journey is captured through a bird’s eye view of himself and the hikers jumping from a crevice to an underground lake. This overhead shot manifests a different perspective for audiences, encouraging them to approach things in a different way.
Furthermore, the clarity of the water they jump into may symbolise clarity of the mind and suggests that different outlooks should be taken into consideration when embarking on a physical journey.
A number of dramatic film techniques such as close-ups, using vectors, are used to create a deep focus on the boulder trapping Ralson’s arm which further emphases his strain and the painful struggle he must overcome throughout his journey. 127 hours also explores an inner journey through Aaron Ralson’s exploration of himself and the mind and spirit.
The use of flashback recalls friends, lovers and family through flashbacks. This technique is effective as he reflects visions that seem so realistic to himself and audiences and questions the actions he’s made throughout his life. It allows viewers to see how someone can evolve emotionally and deepen their understanding of the world on a journey. Ralston’s predicament is presented in a series of rapidly edited, hand-held shot sequences, characterised by different camera angles.
This exemplifies his increasing mental fragility as he struggles to survive when embarking on this journey. Transitional scenes are displayed through a montage to contrast opposing ideas, also suggesting the lapse of time and passing of events. Boyle uses symbolism to emphasise three transitioning scenes of a flying raven, representing freedom, in contrast with the man falling under the boulder, representing confinement, and the long shot of sunlight passing along the canyon, symbolising hope for survival and new life.
Lastly, a dissolving shot of Ralston walking into a white light after finally breaking free is shown to portray a new and more hopeful journey ahead. This biographical journey demonstrates to the audience how journeys are not only defined as an act of physically travelling, but also as a process of self-discovery through broadening our horizons to create a better understanding of our surrounding world and ourselves.
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