Friday, November 5, 2010

Movie Review: 127 Hours

127 Hours *** ½
Directed by:
Danny Boyle.
Written By: Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy based on the book by Aron Ralston.
Starring: James Franco (Aron Ralston), Kate Mara (Girl 1), Amber Tamblyn (Girl 2), Clémence Poésy (Girlfriend), Lizzy Caplan (Sonja), Treat Williams (Aron's Dad), Kate Burton (Mrs. Ralston).

127 Hours is a harrowing true story about a man trapped in a cavern for days on end with no one to talk to, and no real way of getting out of the situation alive. Directed by Danny Boyle, and starring James Franco, in an excellent performance, the movie takes this seemingly uncinematic story and makes it into an intense, visually alive experience – one that you will not soon forget.

Aron Ralston (Franco) is a young engineer whose passion is hiking in the desert region in Utah close to his house. He decides to head out solo one weekend, and neglects to tell anyone where he is going. He gets out to the desert and starts his hike, and quickly meets two beautiful young women who are lost. He guides them to wear they need to go, and the three laugh and flirt, before splitting up and heading on their separate ways. It isn’t long after this that Ralston slips, falls down a shaft in a cavern and ends up with his arm literally caught between a rock and a hard place – in this case the cavern’s wall. He cannot move his arm, and the few tools he has are pretty useless in chipping the rock away – in fact it appears like his arm is really supporting the rock, so the more he chips away, the more his arm is actually trapped there. He has a little water, a little food and his video camera – which he uses to document what happens over those 127 Hours he is trapped down there. Other than his encounter with the two girls early in the film, and a few disjointed flashbacks showing us Aron’s loving relationship with his family, and his troubled relationship with his ex-girlfriend, the film is essentially just Franco, down that shaft by himself – talking to his camera, and trying to find his way out.

But that doesn’t mean the film is boring in the least. Franco is a talented actor, and here he gives what is probably his performance to date. Aron maintains his dark sense of humor down there – which Franco gets perfectly – funny without being morbid, yet still recognizing the gravity of the situation. and it is also an intense, physical performance from Franco, who really does seem to start unraveling before our eyes. Franco is the heart of every scene in the movie, and he delivers a great performance.

Director Danny Boyle may go a little too far over the top with the visual fireworks at times in the movie. This is Boyle’s style, and while it worked amazingly well in Slumdog Millionaire, there were times in this film where I wished he would have played it a little more straight – lets flashy camera moves and rapid fire editing. To me, it freed the movie up just a little bit too much. I appreciated what Rodrigo Cortes did in Buried more – where he literally trapped us with Ryan Reynolds for an hour and a half. The pulsating, loud score by A.R. Rahman (who collaborated with Boyle on Slumdog Millionaire) adds to the intensity no doubt – although sometimes it becomes a little too overbearing. These are minor complaints – overall I did like the visuals of the film, and the score would be wonderful to listen to on its own. However, I think the film could have been even better if Boyle had realized that sometimes, less is more.

I don’t think it’s really giving anything away to reveal that Ralston makes it out of that cavern – after all, he has been doing the press rounds with Boyle and Franco, and the opening titles reveal that the film is based on a book written by Ralston. I won’t reveal how it is that he gets out, but needless to say it is painful and intense when it finally comes – and represents Franco at his best. The scene – which is probably no more than 3 minutes – is one of the hardest to watch of any film this year – but it is handled brilliantly by all involved.

There have been many survival stories put on film over the years – and a few like Sean Penn’s excellent Into the Wild which could be described as a non-survival story – but few can match 127 Hours for its sheer intensity. This is an inspiring story, but also one filled with pain and dark humor. That Boyle and Franco pulled it off at all is reason to celebrate.

1 comment:

  1. I lost a lot of respect for Boyle when he made this movie. As an avid outdoorsman he seems to idolize Aron Ralston instead of making the movie a tale of caution. His blatant misrepresentation of the sport of Canyoneering, will cause numerous problems and rescues next year in the deserts of southern Utah. It isn't a bad film but it has irresponsibility and Hollywood written all over it.