127 Hours: 93 Minutes

Thomas Crowley gets stuck into Danny Boyle’s new work as James Franco looks to have finally struck gold.

127 Hours is a film co-written, produced and directed by Danny Boyle whose previous film Slumdog Millionaire won the Best Picture Oscar in 2009. The film documents the real life story of adventurer Aron Ralston and is based on his book Between a Rock and a Hardplace which was published in 2004.

127 Hours is Boyle’s most ambitious film to date. The film celebrates a person’s overwhelming will to live. James Franco must be given the majority of the credit for the film’s success with his terrific performance depicting Aron Ralston’s disillusionment when presented with an unimaginable, life threatening situation. This will no doubt be seen as Franco’s ‘breakthrough’ role and coupled with Howl, a biopic of beat-poet Alan Ginsberg, due on this side of the Atlantic in late February should give him the recognition he deserves. Danny Boyle seems to know how to get the best out of young actors having previously work with Ewan McGregor, Leonardo Di Caprio and Cillian Murphy (who was initially Boyle’s first choice to play Ralston).

Naturally my expectations were high going into the movie given Boyle’s previous track record, with films like Trainspotting and The Beach he is already an accomplished director. As a director he is a fan of using inventive camerawork and I thought it would be interesting to see how he gets on within the limits of the confined space Ralston himself was victim of. The film begins at a high tempo, establishing Ralston as a happy-go-lucky, daredevil, adventurer. The cavern diving sequence is reminiscent of one of Boyle’s previous outings The Beach (2000). All this action is a prologue to the films true events which begin with Ralston’s hand getting wedged between a rock and a hard place.

Boyle’s method of alternating between extreme close-up and high wide angle shots aptly conveyed Ralston’s sense of claustrophobia and loneliness in the vast open plains of Canyonland National Park in Utah. Huge emphasis was put on his natural life source, his water bottle. Dialogue for a large part of the movie is Ralston talking to himself in order to keep himself sane but was also scripted in such a way to make it seem like he is addressing the audience. This creates a kind of intimate relationship between character and audience and forces the spectator to empathise with an otherwise unfathomable situation. The viewer is often given the perspective of the video recorder; this again creates a relationship between character and audience as Ralston expresses his thoughts and emotions during his life-threatening predicament.

However, one problem with the film which I found was that its tone tended to lean a little too often towards the comedic. Fair enough, its gives the audience some relief from an otherwise gut-wrenching story but at times it took me out of the moment and didn’t suit the overall atmosphere of the film. My cinematic experience while watching the film was marred slightly by continuous and over-zealous laughter by a good portion of the audience during every hallucination sequence.

The film’s stand-out scene was of course the amputation scene. The gruesome and detailed scene reportedly caused people to faint and have panic attacks at a hand full of screenings while the film was doing a tour of film festivals across the United States and Canada, no doubt that such reactions were melo-dramatic, however, it is still impressive. Medical professionals were used to ensure the accuracy of the scene. Moreover, only one prosthetic arm was constructed, consequently the scene had to be shot in one take using multiple cameras making the precision of the scene even more impressive.

127 Hours is an engrossing film about an amazing true life event. Clocking in at approximately 93 minutes long I thought it was a bit light in content. I suppose there is only so much you can tell about a man trapped down a hole with his arm wedged between a boulder and the side of a cliff before things get a bit repetitive. However, I wouldn’t have minded getting a slight percentage of the sense of monotony Aron Ralston must have felt stuck under a rock for 5 days.

4/5 Stars.

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