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Movie Reviews

127 Hours



Reviewer: Rohan Morbey

Released: 7th January 2011

Director: Danny Boyle

Stars: James Franco

Certificate: 15

With an Oscar for Best Director, Danny Boyle was catapulted into the upper echelons of Hollywood directors – but I can’t admit to being a great admirer of Boyle. He is undoubtedly a talented film maker, but none of his films have excited me.

Until I saw 127 Hours.

The story is simple and straight forward. Aron Ralston (James Franco) goes canyoneering. A rock lands on his hand and pins it to the wall. He cannot move the rock, he cannot move anywhere. He remains in the same spot for 127 hours. Then cuts the trapped arm off at the elbow and is free. And it’s all based on a true story from 2003.

With the exception of a few flashbacks and a brief encounter with two other climbers, the film is driven entirely by Franco. For long periods he is all we see as he talks to himself, the madness and anxiety gradually building and growing. This is the best performance I’ve seen from Franco; with the extremely limited tools and surroundings for him to work with, it’s a masterclass in emotional range. We truly believe he is trapped, thirsty, tired, weak, but also hopeful and regretful for the way he has treated others.

Watching the film reminded me of Robert Zemeckis’s excellent Cast Away and the the two certainly films parallel each other in story, narrative structure, and lead performance. Hanks had the Volleyball to speak to and allow narrative exposition, Franco has a camcorder. Both men have women the long to return to. Both men risk their lives for freedom.

However the directors’ styles are totally different. Boyle uses visuals, multiple angles and soundtracks to full effect here, along with all the lens choices he could possibly have used; from wide shots of the stunning Moab canyons to the extreme close ups of a contact lens, to the computer-made air bubbles in Ralston’s ever-depleting water supply. Boyle allows time for us to get to know Ralston and what makes him tick as a young thrill-seeker, but also shows us the troubles in his life which could so easily have been overcooked early on – an argument with his girlfriend, and picture in his wallet etc. But this film is about Ralston and Boyle never forgets that. Even the gory amputation is filmed and edited in style which is realistic, toe-curling, and most importantly, utterly believable.

The film is perfectly paced. At 94 minutes the 3 acts are ideal in length – It never drags or becomes boring, nor is the hand-cutting ever sensationalised or overly dramatic. It was an event which needed to be treated as more of a character study than dramatic re-telling because this obviously built Ralston as a man whilst trapped down there. The rock became a metaphor for his past and future. As he says in the film, he and the rock were destined to meet in that exact place at that exact time.

I certainly expect 127 Hours to be in my top 10 films of the year. It is engrossing, compelling, thought-provoking and brilliant.

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