'127 Hours' (dir: Danny Boyle, 2010/2011), Cert: 15
Danny Boyle seems to be somewhat of a hit machine when it comes to cinema, his last film; ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ (2008) was a massive commercial and critical success and stormed the Academy Awards taking 8 Oscars out of its 10 nominations. He is also responsible for some of the best loved British films of recent times including ‘Trainspotting’ (1995) and ‘28 Days Later’ (2002), and now he’s back again for 2011 with his screen adaptation of Aron Ralston’s autobiography, ‘Between a Rock and a Hard Place’.
The film follows the true story of Aron Ralston (James Franco); a mountain climber and wilderness explorer who takes a weekend trip to Robbers Roost, Utah in 2003. He spends his Saturday morning cycling and trekking where he meets two women. The group travel together briefly before Ralston departs and heads on with his journey. During his travels, he trips and falls into a confined space leaving him trapped by a boulder that’s crushing his arm. Here he is stuck for more than five days. Unable to move and low on life-supporting resources, Ralston must make a hugely difficult but rational decision and choose life over certain death.
Much like the 2010 film ‘Buried’, this picture has to keep its audience engaged and involved with the story in such a small space, which even for a director of Boyle’s stature is a challenge but thankfully, he is able to deliver the goods. ‘127 Hours’ is an emotionally gripping and rewarding film that’s soaked in cinematic beauty and presented with great skill and perfection. The cinematography in the movie is second to none; the golden rocks and blazing sun absorbs the screen leaving the audience awe-inspired by the natural beauty of Utah. The film also sports a stunning soundtrack that wonderfully supports the picture and Ralston’s emotional experiences. Some songs are uplifting and joyful, whilst others are drenched in sorrow and pain.
The thing that separates Boyle from other filmmakers is his way in which he presents a story that allows the audience to feel fully satisfied by it’s conclusion; we want Ralston to succeed, much like we wanted Jamal Malik to win ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire’ in ‘Slumdog Millionaire’. Even though the endings to these pictures could be seen as obvious, they enrich the audience and leave them feeling pleased and most importantly, uplifted. Ralston’s story is one of great intrigue and power, a journey of self-discovery and belief that allowed him to free himself from his potential tomb and rise again.
What really makes this film exceptional however is Franco’s performance; he has to carry basically the entire picture alone and he uses such class in order to fulfil this task. He really captures the emotions of Ralston and delivers them with such passion and excellence; he could be performing on a high-wire. In the sequences in which Ralston starts to hallucinate and debates self-mutilation, Franco turns it up to 11 leaving the audience breathless as he clenches our heart-strings so hard. He is a fantastic actor and for me, this is his best work to date.
A lot has been said about the infamous ‘arm’ sequence which I don’t want to spoil for anyone, but what I can say is that it’s not that bad; its quite grizzly and the high-pitched sounds surrounding it are slightly off-putting but as a whole, it’s no worse than a standard Horror movie scene. Regardless of what you’ve heard, don’t let this brief sequence put you off seeing this marvellous picture.
‘127 Hours’ is a masterclass in contemporary cinema that shows just how important a great character and a stunning tale is needed to succeed. It’s directed with tremendous skill, scored with gorgeous music and performed immaculately.
Verdict: 5 out of 5- A fantastic way to start 2011. A heart-racing yet heart-felt picture about the power of the human spirit that will stay long in the memory.
By Chris Haydon