Soundtrack Review: 127 HOURS

Allison Loring

by: Allison Loring
December 8th, 2010

Rating: 3/5

A mix of score from composer A.R. Rahman and music from artists such as Free Blood, Plastic Bertrand, and Sigur Ros, the soundtrack for 127 HOURS is one of hope and perseverance in the face of a daunting situation. The score helps fill in the quieter moments as our main character is (literally) stuck alone, while the more popular tracks work to link us back to the outside world with familiar songs such as Bill Withers, “Lovely Day.”

Free Blood kick off the soundtrack, and the film, with their catchy “Never Hear Surf Music Again.” The song’s beat not only works to introduce us to the fast-paced world of Aron Ralston, but the title suggests that Ralston is running into a situation that may be more death defying than he realizes. Throughout 127 HOURS, Ralston’s memories are one of the main things he holds on to from playing “Chopin: Nocturne No. 2 in E flat, Op 9 No. 2” on the piano with his sister to care free times with his friends and girlfriend set to “Ca Plane Pour Moi” by Plastic Betrand.

Having previously worked with director Danny Boyle on SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, Rahman has said he felt his job on 127 HOURS was to create a score that would be the uplifting undertone throughout Ralston’s journey in, and out of, the canyon. Even though Ralston’s situation seems perilous, Rahman felt that in a film with little dialogue outside of Ralston speaking to himself, the music became paramount in keeping the audience rooting for him to succeed.

Certainly these are not just upbeat tracks as that juxtaposition would have been comical, but there is a hopeful feeling to each which helps keep us as the audience from giving up and helping us understand why Ralston did not. The three phrase of liberation, “Liberation Begins,” “Liberation in a Dream,” and “Liberation” create the thread to follow as Ralston is pushed to take the steps needed to free himself from the rock he is stuck under. The driving electronic guitar that runs through the three tracks is not just invigorating; it also makes you want to get up, move, and win. As “Liberation” comes to a close, you feel that adrenaline rush of not just doing something you may not have thought yourself able to do, but the relief that you not only triumphed, but overcame unbelievable odds.

My favorite track on the soundtrack was “If I Rise” with vocals by Dido and Rahman, which combines Rahman’s score with actual words and lyrics. The combination of Rahman’s music with Dido’s voice is almost ethereal and really does speak to the idea of the power of the human spirit. The children’s choir chiming in at the end gives the track a full circle effect that not only works within this story, but creates an inspiring track on its own.

In a story like 127 HOURS, the music is an important element, but it becomes a fine line between helping to keep the emotional resonance of the story and becoming emotionally manipulative. Booming orchestration as Ralston frees himself and finds help would drum up emotion, but it is much more meaningful when that moment is only highlighted rather than taken over. Both Rahman and the artists selected to complete the soundtrack work well to keep us connected to Ralston without telling us how to feel about him, his situation and how he handles it.

This soundtrack is available through Interscope Records.

1. “Never Hear Surf Music Again” – Free Blood
2. “The Canyon” – A.R. Rahman
3. “Liberation Begins” – A.R. Rahman
4. “Touch of the Sun” – A.R. Rahman
5. “Lovely Day” – Bill Withers
6. “Chopin: Nocturne No. 2 in E flat, Op. 9 No. 2” – Vladimir Ashkenazy
7. “Ca Plane Pour Moi” – Plastic Bertrand
8. “Liberation In A Dream” – A.R. Rahman
9. “If You Love Me (Really Love Me)” – Esther Phillips
10. “Acid Darbari” – A.R. Rahman
11. “R.I.P” – A.R. Rahman
12. “Liberation” – A.R. Rahman
13. “Festival” – Sigur Ros
14. “If I Rise” – Dido & A.R. Rahman

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