Thursday, January 13, 2011

Movie review: 127 Hours

127 Hours tells the story of real-life mountain climber Aron Ralston who becomes trapped under a boulder while canyoneering alone in Utah, in 2003. The film, based on Ralston's autobiography Between A Rock and A Hard Place, was written for the screen by Simon Beaufoy and Danny Boyle who also directed. This is the same team that brought us Slumdog Millionaire in 2008, but these are two very different movies and, dare I say, 127 Hours is vastly superior.

Always eager for the next adventure, Ralson is a thrill-seeking, free-spirited mountain climber who leaves home without bothering to tell anyone where he is going. He doesn't even take a lot of time preparing for his trip. It is all very "on the spur of the moment". He grabs some food, water, climbing rope, a few basic tools, music, camera, throws them in his bat pack and he's on his way.

During the five days that Ralston spends being trapped in an isolated canyon, down a crevice, he examines his life and has all kinds of flashbacks and premonitions all the while trying to stay alive and not lose his mind. Eventually he realizes he has to resort to desperate measures in order to escape and that is when he cuts off his arm. I can't even begin to imagine what that must have felt like. Be prepared for a realistic self-amputation scene that was shot by Boyle in one take with multiple cameras. Boyle worked with a medical team on the accuracy of that scene and even though it is not extremely detailed, it is still quite graphic and it might make you want to look away from the screen. The good news is that by the time we, as viewers, get to that scene, we are as desperate and adrenaline-fueled as the main hero for a solution to escape, and that makes it easier to bear. We want him to survive. We want him to try everything humanly possible to get out of there - he must do or die. That's how involved you get in the movie.

At the center of 127 Hours is a fantastic, Oscar-worthy performance by James Franco and what a tour-de-force it is. Gritty, emotional, intense, witty. Although he wasn't Boyle's first choice to play Ralston (Cillian Murphy and Ryan Gosling had reportedly been considered before Franco's name came up), I'm glad he got the part because it finally gave him the opportunity to show what he is capable of on-screen.

Boyle described 127 Hours as "very much a British film", and "an action movie with a guy who can't move". Thanks to his directing genius, he turned 127 Hours into a compelling, unique movie experience, proving he was the perfect man for the job. Yes, it is a gut-wrenching, visceral film, but it will also surprise you with shots that nearly look like they were taken from a music video. It is visually stunning and almost hypnotic at times. Directing, editing and cinematography are excellent.  It's modern, bold, edgy filmmaking and probably the best thing Boyle has done so far. It's not for everyone, but if you get into it, it is a movie you won't forget.

127 Hours is ultimately a story of survival, but it's not cliched. It is a story about the power of human mind, body and spirit, and that is a thing of beauty, awe and inspiration. Rating: 4.5 out of 5.


Anonymous said...

I enjoyed 127 Hours, but my problem comes from the fact that I just don't think it's really all that deep. The movie does what it can with a limited story. "A guy is trapped for five days with limited food and water, eventually cutting his own arm off in the hopes of surviving". It's very on the surface. Boyle attempts to bring it deeper than that, but it doesn't go much deeper much of the time. The point that really got to me was Ralston's need to survive. It connects with the audience because it strikes a universal chord: who wouldn't do what Ralston did in order to survive? And I think the film works because of Franco's performance more than anything else.

Smaranda said...

Nathan, thanks for commenting! I loved this movie, it's one of my favorites of 2010. For some reason, I knew I'd love it ever since I first saw the trailer. I think Boyle went as far as he should have, maybe any step further than that would have taken it into a cliche or cheesy territory. And to answer your question, a lot of people haven't seen it and refuse to. I am not sure it strikes a universal chord in the sense that many people would do the same thing. You'd be surprised how many people would NOT do what Ralston did in order to survive. I admit I wouldn't. Physically, I would not be able to.

Mia said...

hmm, have not seen it yet, but this makes me want to rent is asap. nice writing!

Smaranda said...

Krista, thank you so much! I hope you'll like it as much as I did.

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