Wednesday, 29 June 2011

127 Hours

2010. Dir: Danny Boyle. Starring: James Franco, Kate Mara, Amber Tamblyn, Clémence Poésy and Treat Williams. ●●●●○

As I was saying a couple of weeks ago there were a couple of movies released in January that I didn't get a chance to catch in cinemas. The second of those was Danny Boyle's 127 Hours, and to be perfectly honest with you I'm glad I watched it in the comfort of my home - where I could pause the film and nearly pass out without feeling horribly embarrassed in front of strangers (I count my readers as friends hence I'm able to tell you here). Frankly my side - where I curled into the fetal position and slowly recovered is still in agony the following day. In short the movie caused an unprecedented reaction for me. I'm not a gore hound but I have seen some of the torture porn genre but nothing prepared me for the money shots in this picture.

For those of you who don't know the plot - and I doubt there are many - the film follows James Franco as Aron Ralston the self-professed adventurer and live for today outdoorsy type who on a weekend of canyoneering in Utah dislodged a massive rock which pinned his arm against the rack face. We then watch Franco deteriorate from a cocky angry young man into a hallucinating wreck accepting his death before he finally faces the enormity of the decision he will have to face.

That's about it. We get a short introduction when he meets up with two backpackers in the opening minutes of the film, and there is the odd flashback as Franco searches for meaning in his life, but 75% of the film is Franco trapped under a rock. Given that this is a true story (and I - like many others - knew how it would end going in) the film carefully walks that type-rope between maintaining suspense and cheating the audience - the frequent hallucinations blur the line of reality, confusing fact from fiction to the viewer and making the ultimate ending seem so far away.

Franco excels in the role, every moment of his screen time is fascinating as multiple attempts to escape fail and he traverses through the Kübler-Ross model of grief.

Of course all that would be in vain if the work around Franco wasn't high class as well. Simon Beaufoy's script, based in part on the recordings that Ralston made in the canyon, does that rare combo of ratcheting up the tension whilst also developing the themes of needing humanity and family to really survive. The make-up department also need to be praised for their work on Franco, each scene sees the deterioration in his physicality and his colour as his energy seeps away during the 127 hours he was trapped.

Danny Boyle, editor Jon Harris and cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle stuff the film with split screens, repeated actions and graphic tracking shots that emphasise the isolation of this MTV matinee idol like character.

Would I recommend this movie. Oddly no, I don't think I could, in spite of how excellent it is that one scene is so much I can't advise other people watch it. Would I watch it again. Probably not. Did this film move me with it's themes and execution in a way that few movies have ever done. Certainly.


TomS said...

What an interesting review! Well-written, and very effective description of your visceral reaction. I have not seen this, and for reasons you have described, I had purposely avoided it, in spite of my huge crush on James Franco. Perhaps, like you, I will venture to look at it from the safety of home, with the pause button at the ready.

Alex in Movieland said...

Franco is great right. It was very difficult for me to choose between him and Bardem for my top award this year.

I didn't find it as shocking or troubling, and I think they've shown just enough not to make it horror like.

The cinematography, though, was a bit problematic for me. Way too bright & colorful maybe.

Runs Like A Gay said...

For me the non-horror way of filming was what caused the reaction - it was the investment in the character and the extremely effective sound work that drew me in and caused my fainting spell.