127 Hours

18 Nov

Title: 127 Hours
Danny Boyle
Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy, based on the autobiography of Aron Ralston
James Franco, Amber Tamblyn, Kate Mara, Clémence Poésy, Lizzy Caplan, Treat Williams
MPAA Rating:
R, language and some disturbing violent content/bloody images
94 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating:
Rotten Tomatoes:

I finally got to see 127 Hours, a film with huge buzz for its portrayal of the amazing real-life story of Aron Ralston, a hugely inspiring man. The buzz around it was that it was pretty much a perfect film, that Danny Boyle had achieved, in his first film after Slumdog Millionaire, another solid Best Picture candidate, that James Franco’s performance was unbelievably powerful and he had a shot at the Best Actor trophy. Such hype is amazing to live up to, but after having seen 127 Hours I must admit that such buzz is spot-on.

This is a very powerful film, a gut-wrenching experience. The amputation scene that has been talked about so much in the media, that has had people fainting in theaters, isn’t gratuitous at all, it’s very necessary to show the man’s struggle to make us connect even deeper with Aron Ralston. And, as all the hype said, this is indeed a film that’s extremely close to perfection, a film that’s gripping and very inspirational and that boasts a performance that’s simply stunning to see develop courtesy of Mr. Franco, who’s as versatile as an actor can be.

When he was stuck alone and without communication between a boulder that was crushing his arm and a mountain Aron Ralston filmed a video diary, which is the source of most of the film’s scenes. The footage had only been shown to close friends and family by Mr. Ralston, and is kept in a bank vault for security purposes, but before they shot the film Mr. Ralston showed both Mr. Boyle and Mr. Franco the content of the videos, and I’m sure that was monumental to the shaping up of this film. More than a film you should watch, this is a film you should experience, because it will grab you and and it will never let you go until its over, this is just one very intense ride you’re on.

The film is awesome, literally, it induces awe, it’s amazing, a tour de force, everything good you can say about 127 Hours you can go ahead and say it because it deserves it. This is a very tough thing we see going on before us, and thanks to Mr. Boyle and Mr. Franco it all works out terrifically. I’ve seen interviews with Mr. Ralston before the film was shot, and I’ve seen Q&A’s with him after the film’s screenings, and he’s an amazing guy, the stuff he went through obviously made him so amazing because that’s as life-altering an experience as you can go through, but I have a feeling the guy was amazing before that, too, a true daredevil.

Mr. Franco is wonderful as Aron, probably the single best choice Mr. Boyle could have made when casting. As I said, he’s as versatile as an actor can be in our times, he’s been the villain of a superhero franchise, he’s played a stoner in Pineapple Express, he’s played Allen Ginsberg in this year’s very good Howl and had a 41-episode arc on the daytime soap General Hospital. That’s what you can call a really diverse resumé. And that shows in 127 Hours, because Aron Ralston needs many faces in the long time we get to spend with him. Sure, there’s that initial scene with the two girls he meets that’s featured in the wonderful trailer for the film, and we also get to see other people in his life along the way, but, for the most part, we’re stuck in one place with one guy, and Mr. Franco makes it work.

Aron Ralston was sort of a funny and cocky guy, a charmer who never doubted his skills, he was always going to beat the mountain, he was the top dog at what he did, and he was also crazy smart, as we see by his behavior when the unbelievable happens. He’s not always composed, but even though we might like to think we’d be able to withstand the circumstances as well as he did, I doubt many of us would. Mr. Franco is amazing at embodying the man, the scenes in which he tapes himself with his camera, kind of like his spoken final words to be unearthed with his dead body and then shown to his family, are sublime. Here is a man who has pretty much accepted his death, and is scared shitless, but when he turns that camera on he puts on this mask that covers that fear, he puts up a front so that the people who see that tapes feel comforted that he was fine until the very end. This is just a very compelling film, this is a film that gets you so damn immersed in the moment that it feels amazing, and the reaction you’ll have to this film will be a very strong one no matter what.

The cinematography by the way, is breathtaking. Enrique Chediak, who had previously worked on the Boyle-produced 28 Weeks Later collaborated on it with Anthony Dod Mantle, a frequent collaborator of Mr. Boyle who won the Oscar for his work on Slumdog Millionaire and will surely find himself being nominated again for this one. There are some beautiful sights here in the Utah wilderness, where everything looks gorgeous and these guys were just set loose to do as they pleased, and what we get is a beautifully shot film.

Mr. Boyle is one of the best directors working today, never shying away from a challenge. Just take a look at his resumé and you’ll see titles as diverse as 28 Days Later, Millions, Sunshine and, my personal favorite of his, Trainspotting. The guy knows how to do a great film, that’s for certain, and in 127 Hours he succeeds at filming one that captures the spirit of Mr. Ralston to perfection, and that’s precisely because of the stuff he has done before, the topics the man handles in his films are always unpleasant in one way or another, and yet he always tackles them with this relentless energy, which makes them all as magnificent as they are, because the hard topics are handled with this great joy that makes them livelier and not depressing.

127 Hours ultimately is as intense an experience as you’ll ever have watching a movie, yes, there will be scenes that will be tough to watch, but it’s not because of what you see, but because of what you start to think. This is a film that engages you both emotionally and intellectually, you are always feeling for Aron, but you’re also thinking about the situation he’s in, about what you would do in that same spot, about if you would be able to do what he did. This is the perfect story of the human spirit winning, about man versus wild, about beating unbeatable odds. We all love these stories, especially when they actually happened, when the real guy is still here doing interviews and being just plain out awesome.

This film will indeed by nominated for a Best Picture Oscar, Danny Boyle should be nominated for Best Director and Mr. Franco will apparently be going head-to-head against Colin Firth in the Best Actor race. Those are all very deserved honors it will get, and I would be happy to see it win some of those awards because 127 Hours is pretty much perfect, this is a film that embraces life fully, much like Sean Penn’s masterful Into the Wild, one of my personal favorites, did some years ago, a film that tells an amazing journey and that found in Danny Boyle and James Franco a pitch-perfect director-actor combo to tell the story and surely make it stand as one of the year’s best.

Grade: A+


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