Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Of 127 Hours

127 Hours is the new Danny Boyle film and I think it's safe to say that it is pretty fantastic. The basic premise of the film should of course be well known to anyone familiar with the real life story. Aron Ralston goes hiking in Utah and ends being trapped underneath a rock for 127 Hours where he ultimately is forced to amputate his own arm in order to escape. Of course this film isn't for everyone, but if you think that it's just James Franco under a rock for 2 hours then you're wrong, what 127 Hours is far more interesting than that.

That isn't to say the vast majority of the films events don't occur in one very small section of a canyon, because it does, but this film is elevated by an absolutely fantastic performance from James Franco. 127 Hours is the sort of film that lives and dies on the performance of its lead actor and luckily James Franco is superb and really does elevate this film. The sheer range that James Franco is able to portray in this film is extraordinary and shows just how far he has come from his days of playing Harry Osborn in the Spider-man films. Over the course of 93 minutes, James Franco shows the audience sheer joy, sadness, intense anger, pain, hints of madness, exhaustion and a list nearly as long as my arm. Whilst the short run time might not be nearly as long as Ralston's real life ordeal, 127 Hours really places the audience into the canyon with Franco to the extent we feel his pain and every emotion he is going through. 127 Hours is a character piece of the highest order, James Franco's performance is near flawless and really does have to be seen to be believed.

Whilst James Franco's outstanding performance is of course the main reason to go see this film, we must not forget the works of Danny Boyle and the rest of the crew. Special mention must be made to cinematographers Anthony Dod Mantle and Enrique Chediak who do an absolutely outstanding job of filming Utah in all of it's daunting glory and the small space that Franco inhabits throughout the film. Again, if you like your films to look good, they don't look much better than 127 Hours.

Then we have Danny Boyle who has done the amazing task of filming the un-filmable. One of the main reasons that people I know have been hesistant to see this film is because they don't know how on earth it is going to work as a film, but Danny Boyle and fellow screenwriter Simon Beaufoy (also from Slumdog Millionaire) achieve this in their script and Danny Boyle in his filming of events. Whilst the majority of the film does take place with that canyon, Danny Boyle portrays the toll that these events are playing on Aron Ralston through the use of such strange and out of place imagery that it feels like the audience is seeing what Ralston was seeing, as he slowly dehydrates and hallucinates.

Really though what I need to talk about is that scene, the scene where after 5 days at the bottom of this crevasse, Ralston amputates his own arm. I don't think it's any surprise that the scene is hard to watch. Films don't portray violence in a realistic light very often which makes a film like 127 Hours that much more stark when it actually does so. What it is about the amputation scene isn't the sight of the desecrated arm (although it kind of is) but the sound of what is happening. The sound of Ralston breaking the bone in his arm in two is one that I will not forget for a long time, nor will I forget the scene where he is forced to sever his own nerve endings.

127 Hours isn't a film for everyone, for sure, but those that do appreciate it will absolutely love it. Danny Boyle proves, once again, how he is one of the best working directors in the world and James Franco puts in a stunning performance as Aron Ralston which has already picked up a lot of buzz as we move into awards time. At it's heart 127 Hours is a very intimate story about a man who wasn't prepared for what happened to him, he isn't some kind of superhuman, but a man who knew what he needed to do to survive. And that makes 127 Hours that bit more outstanding. 9/10

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