Review: 127 Hours

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I’m in pretty deep doodoo here

I think I know what I love about films.

It’s an odd way to start a review but watching 127 Hours made rediscover what that ‘thing’ was that allowed me to sort the wheat from the chaff.

Every now and then i look at my film collection and wonder why I bought certain films and whether they were any good in the first place (Starsky and Hutch?).

For some the reasons were as clear as day; a performance, the dialogue or perhaps a thread that resonated with me. For others I couldn’t quite remember… maybe I indulged myself and bought a film on a whim.

But then I watched 127 Hours and I realised it was the experience, the sensation you get from being caught in the thrall of the narrative, the visuals and the sound. Of not knowing – or in the case of this film, knowing absolutely – what’s coming next but unsure as to how it will be depicted. I feel it’s within that uncertainty that a film feels ‘alive’, constantly changing and confounding in ways that the audience feels engaged with what’s happening. The Red Shoes did that for me and so did watching Metropolis and quite a few others I won’t detail here but immersion is something every film should provide and this film delivers that.

Now, I’m an admirer of Danny Boyle but not a huge fan. I’ve probably watched half of his catalogue, I liked Trainspotting, really enjoyed 28 Days Later and Sunshine but never understood the critical fawning granted to Slumdog Millionaire. A good film but Best Picture? He strikes me as a director not necessarily concerned with executing the narrative clinically but emphatically. Pointing a camera at someone isn’t enough; it has to be almost inside the moment.

It’s that sensory, exhilarating touch that he brings to 127 Hours a film where we know the ending and yet I couldn’t help but be captured by his storytelling and James Franco’s performance. Like Ryan Reynolds in Buried it’s a one-man performance, keeping the viewer engaged in the quite frankly disastrous position he’s in. It could have just been one man fighting the odds, that stirring story that invades our multiplexes every so often but it ends up being more than that. As Ralston says, this boulder’s been waiting for him his whole life; it’s an obstacle, one he placed there in front of him unwittingly. He pretends to be superhuman and crashes back to earth realising he’s in the same world us as the mere mortals.

It’s a film about his character; about how one moment can challenge what we think of ourselves, what others think of us, our aspirations and about how this metaphorical boulder positions itself, ready to halt the inertia and make us consider what else is out there for us.

Boyle and Franco get some great help from A R Rahman’s great, immersive soundtrack. Whoever did the sound design deserves a pat on the back – the booming sound of thunder, cracking of bones and the snapping of tendons is thoroughly startling. Editing deserves some credit too for how it fresh and energetic it can be.

If I had to describe the film with one word I think it would be euphoric and in a film where a man is trapped for 127 hours and cuts his arm off, it certainly wouldn’t have been the first word I would have thought of.

It’s the kind of experience that doesn’t happen all too often and reminds me of Scott Pilgrim Vs the World in the way a director utilises every possible technique and convention under his control.

For all the best reasons I certainly won’t forget 127 Hours.

9/10

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Posted on 08/01/2011, in Reviews and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. James Franco, who is rapidly emerging as one of the most promising actors of his generation, matches Boyle’s technical brilliance with a mesmerising depiction of Ralston’s strange internal journey.

    • It’s a terrific performance but I feel that with the film on the fringes of the oscar debate and The King’s Speech seemingly the front-runner, that his performance is perhaps being missed my many. Best performance I’ve seen him do so far.

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