After finding Slumdog Millionaire horribly overrated, I’m pleased to announce that I truly enjoyed Danny Boyle’s latest flick, based on the book ‘Between a Rock and a Hard Place’ by Aron Ralston. For those three people on Earth who don’t know about Aron’s famous misadventure, in 2003 he went canyoning when a boulder fell onto his hand, pinning it against a wall. The 127 hours refers to the amount of time he spent trapped in that canyon.
Thankfully the ‘event’ happens pretty quickly into the film. The obvious problem of making a film like this is that the majority of the audience know what’s going to happen. Thus, having to wait ages for the event to kick in (I’m looking at you, Titanic) can be a bit of a bore. Thus, we get about 15 minutes’ introduction before the setting becomes fixed. This introductory act is a lot like the trailer – a hyperactively edited tourism advertisement. The cinematic style is similar to that of Slumdog Millionaire, and aims for a low-budget video realism.
James Franco plays Ralston and the film really lets him show off his acting skills in a way that 32 Spider-Man movies never could have. For the majority of the film we’re stuck with him – in fact, it’s almost always a headshot – and it’s an extraordinary performance, akin to that of Ryan Reynolds’ in Buried (my favourite film of last year.) Boyle and Simon Beaufoy’s script does provide many flashbacks and fantasy sequences, so the film isn’t confined in the same way as Buried, but all the same this must be the kind of challenge that actors relish.
When it gets down to the gore we all know is coming, 127 Hours certainly doesn’t hold back. The particular sequence in question, however, is masterfully handled. It’s a brilliant collision of prosthetics, digital effects, music, sound effects and editing – and perfectly difficult to watch. A.R. Rahman’s score is excellent actually, and frequently sounds like John Murphy’s work for Boyle on Sunshine and 28 Days Later.
It’s practically impossible for a film based on such a well-known event to be perfect – when watching it I, for one, can’t stop wondering what changes have been made – however I’m certain that 127 Hours was the best movie that Ralston could have hoped for. Franco’s great performance is a perfect balance of hot-headedness and eventual penitence, and just what a film like this needs – a character arc that is profound without being preachy. I might suggest you view it on an empty stomach, however.Rating: