Thursday, 13 January 2011

127 HOURS (2010) - 4 STARS

"Every Second Counts"

Slowly but surely Danny Boyle is achieving greatness as a director and after the success of Slumdog Millionaire in 2008, he has created another fine film, adapted from a story of courage and sacrifice that would affect the hero of the hour for the rest of his current life. The tagline itself provides the basis of what we're about to go through with the lead character as he finds himself in a perilous situation that most others could never get out of. But as we see with this conquest, it leads to a moment of precise thinking that has already left many audiences reaching for the sick bucket.

The year is 2003 and adventurous rock-climber Aaron Ralston (James Franco) finds himself canyoneering around the rocky landscape of Utah providing his daredevil skills by trying to impress two young women (Kate Mara and Amber Tamblyn) who are also in the area. From riding his bike manically to sliding through passage ways, it is clear what Aaron is doing, that is until he attempts to climb over a small boulder stuck between a gauge leading to him falling through the gauge and pinning his right arm against the rock that falls with him. It is from then on, that Aaron faces a hectic and claustrophobic period of the film thinking of ways to escape from the situation but the rock has all but kept him in the passage. Over the next 127 hours (5 or so days), he tries to keep himself alive by drinking from his bottle of water but starts to suffer from hallucinations that affect him mentally. It is through that which makes him reveal via his hand held camera, his regret of certain moments in his life that have left him guilty for ignoring other people including his family and now makes it his ambition to free himself from his predicament. This leads to a sacrifice that would prove affecting towards Aaron and ensure he would remember the situation for the rest of his life........

It is official that Boyle has once again made a phenomenal film that again allows the audience to really be plunged into a deep togetherness with Ralston. A unique tactic in the film is of flashbacks which has been one of Boyle's trademarks in his films like Slumdog and Trainspotting (1996). Ralston spends a lot of time thinking about what brought him to this life changing moment, and it is rather interesting how Boyle handles these thoughts. They are placed there to pinpoint our view of Ralston's life, but they never seem to overtake the bigger picture of being pinned by the rock. With his association with the likes of his colleague at work or the two girls, they are part of the film's few scenes of character interaction, and help us get used to Ralston's mind. His hallucinations are done in very much the same way, but do not work nearly as great as these off-the-wall scenes do (the Scooby Doo hallucination in particular is very random). That is all captured by the immaculate cinematography which tackles every possible angle, often bringing the audience uncomfortably close to the action. Mostly though it is essentially the James Franco show. After we rarely get much focus on him in the beginning, we eventually do after he falls and then it becomes a deeply focused and claustrophobic character piece driven by his facial movements and reactions. The camera gets right in his face and shows us the gritty reality of his predicament, and Franco is a revelation with his portrayal. You will be unable to take your eyes off this riveting performance and it seems a bit unfortunate that he is competing for awards attention against another flawless display from Colin Firth in another 2010 release The King's Speech. And yes Boyle's trademark contributes to the grimness of the film with the talked about scene towards the film's climax which left many including myself feeling ill (though mesmerized by how gruesome yet realistic it was) but it adds to the crucial point of what Ralston went through in order to try and survive.

Ultimately there are a couple of significant faults of the film that only make it at least reach the 80-90% margin of its rating. As this is essentially the James Franco show, the rest of the cast are rarely used and the box-office may suffer a bit due to the lack of other big names involved aside from Clemence Posey from the Harry Potter films though she only appears briefly as Ralton's estranged girlfriend. That can't take away the sensation of Franco's performance though there are many which will also try to compare the film to other survival flicks including Cast Away (2000) and Into The Wild (2007), which both at least were longer and more significant to the other character's back stories. Even for a film that lasts an hour and a half, there will be some that may be bored by the experience and maybe not be as comfortable to side with Ralton's predicament. However this is an experience that most people can and should integrate with, it's a story of survival which should be watched by more audiences even if it does involve gore or focus on one person. The climax especially goes through the emotions which are felt that signify triumph and the power of the human spirit, another success story for Mr Boyle definitely!


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