Review: 127 Hours
PLOT: The true story of mountain climber Aron Ralston (James Franco), who was trapped in a canyon for 127 HOURS after a loose boulder pinned his arm.
REVIEW: Seeing as how 127 HOURS is the follow-up to Danny Boyle's Best Picture winning SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, expectations for this film could not be higher.
This is a strikingly different film from SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, and, to that extent, very different from anything Danny Boyle's ever done before. His films are known for their energy, but here, he's made a very intimate film as the majority of it takes place in a remote canyon, with a character who's unable to move.
Still, Boyle manages to make it exciting, and NEVER boring. The way Ralston's plight is set up is terrific. The first twenty minutes of the film is quite a bit like SLUMDOG, in that Franco's Ralston never stops moving around, with tons of quick cutting, and phenomenal music courtesy of A.R Rahman. We get a sense of Ralston as a fun loving guy, as he befriends a couple a cute hikers (Kate Mara, Amber Tamblyn). We also realize that despite his affable nature, Ralston's a true loner- with him taking off on his hike without telling anyone where he's going, which is why he realizes nobody's going to look for him.
For James Franco, this is essentially a one man show, and he's brilliant. No matter what, Franco's going to get nominated for an Oscar, as this is truly a knock-out performance. Franco's a very likable guy, so we're rooting for Ralston throughout. Once he takes certain desperate measures to escape (a quick Google search will reveal what he did, but I won't spoil it here), you'll be in agony watching him suffer (the theatre was echoing with groans and winces from the presumably hardened industry audience).
One of the reasons 127 HOURS works so well is that Boyle opens up the story, so that it's not just ninety minutes of a guy stuck in a canyon. Once he's pinned, we take a journey inward, as Ralston reflects on his family, including sister Lizzy Caplan, who's about the get married. We also reflects on his aborted relationship with a woman (Clemence Poesy from IN BRUGES) who might have been the love of his life had he been able to let her in.
One rumor that must be laid to rest is whether or not large chunks of the film are silent. While yes, the dialogue is sparse in many scenes, as he's alone, Ralston never stops talking to himself. He also uses a camcorder to document his struggle once his food and water begins to run out. One gets that the video he's making is more for himself than anyone who might find it, and the way Franco opens up to the camera about his family, and ex-lover is moving. In particular there's one scene where he curses himself for being such a loner that's one of the highlights of a film chock full of highlights.
For Danny Boyle, 127 HOURS is a another triumph. While personally, I prefer SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, TRAINSPOTTING, and 28 DAYS LATER, this still compares favorably with his best work. The fact that he was able to finish this less than two years after SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE proves what a hugely talented, and versatile director he is. I can't wait to see what he does next, but considering how in the zone he is these days, I'm sure it'll be fantastic.
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