Friday, December 10, 2010

Movie Review: 127 Hours

I saw a great movie this last weekend ... sure to be one of my year end Top 10, Danny Boyle's 127 Hours about adventurer Aron Ralston. For those that don't know, Ralston is the climber/hiker that found himself between a "rock and a hard place", literally, a few years ago and made a decision, to save his life, that most of us could not do in a million years.  Hiking in a remote canyon in Utah, he becomes trapped in a crevice with his arm pinned between a large rock and the side of the crevice.  "127 hours" is the amount of time that he spent in that position with minimal food and water and no warm clothing.  Resourceful and with a sense of theatricality, he had both a still camera and video camera to document his trials.

127 Hours appealed to me because of the aesthetic of the subject of the film, much like one of my favorite films, Into The Wild. That aesthetic of the beauty and harshness of nature without sentimentality.

The comparisons to Into the Wild are inevitable and appropriate. Both Ralston and Chris McCandless (of Into the Wild) were intelligent loners who escaped civilization willingly even though they would have been successful in the business world. They both took a perverse pride in their independence. On many occasions, each would disappear without even telling their family or friends. During their last moments of despair, they came to appreciate others more than they had before. That crisis-caused clarity also revealed to them that their predicaments were culminations of the paths that they had set for themselves.

Ralston is played by the great young actor, James Franco. Franco's acting is largely solo with one encounter with some attractive female hikers.  A lesser actor could make this film unwatchable but Franco manages to add levity and depth to a performance that will be compared to Hank's in Castaway or maybe this year's Buried with Ryan Reynolds. I haven't seen Buried yet, but I think Franco is much better than Hanks, at least for these two performances.

The scenery is gorgeous, shot on location in Utah. Boyle, as is his wont, is a bit unconventional and used two different cinematographers.  The scenes in the crevice have even more realism to them largely because Franco and Boyle were privy to Ralston's own video diary.  Prior to them viewing it, only family and friends had seen the video and, to the best of my knowledge, the Ralston family has no intention of ever releasing it.

Like a lot of Boyle's movies, most notably Trainspotting and Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours sometimes plays like a music video with flashy editing and jumpin' music. 127 shares Oscar-winning composer A.R. Rahman with Slumdog, and he does a great job in this movie as well.

Now, if you don't know the climax of the real-life story and have not seen the movie yet, then stop reading as I'm going to discuss the "money" scene, as it were.


In real life, Ralston, to save his own life, cut off his own arm. How to portray that on screen had to have been an interesting problem for Boyle, but I believe he did it perfectly. It has both technical fidelity and emotional fidelity. Considering the graphic nature of the dismemberment, you would think it was gratuitous. But, because you are so invested in the story and Ralston's fight for life, you not only want to see him do it, you NEED to see him do it. That's a a remarkable achievement by Boyle and Franco.

127 Hours is not a depressing movie, despite what has to happen. It is funny, sad, and uplifting without being a Hollywood "happy ending" cliché. I love the effect that the most successful foreign directors have had on the film industry (Boyle, Cuaron, Guillermo del Toro, Paul Greengrass, etc.). Grade: A

Also, check out Reel Fanatic's great review and discussion: Review: Danny Boyle's exhilarating "127 Hours"


wunelle said...

This was a movie I'd kind of resolved not to see, as I can't get myself past the dénouement. Your enthusiasm makes me think I probably ought to just suck it up and see it. Ugh.

Watch Movies said...

I am a huge fan of Director Danny Boyle's work, but this time around he tried something different, and didn't quite succeed. The scenery is fantastic.

Watch Movies said...

I am a huge fan of Director Danny Boyle's work, but this time around he tried something different, and didn't quite succeed. The scenery is fantastic.