Thursday, 4 November 2010
review of danny boyle's 127 hours.
directed by danny boyle
starring - james franco, clémence poésy, amber tamblyn
release - 7 january 2011
certificate - rated r
when you’re a critically acclaimed director, fresh out of the oscars with two statuettes on your cupboard for a feel-good dancing bonanza like slumdog millionaire, the next step isn’t usually a project about an american mountain climber who gets trapped in a canyon in utah for five days and needs to endure one of the most gruesome and admirable displays of strong will that i have ever seen. but then again, boyle is known for being unexpected. he followed a shocking drama about the world of drugs in edinburgh with a romantic comedy set in l.a. and a zombie flick with a heart-warming film about a poor kid who becomes a millionaire for little bit.
in all his eclectic genre bending, boyle manages always to keep an interesting visual bravado. so his films are never mechanic and achieve in introducing new realities to the cinematic world. but this is a difficult story, it mostly consists of one man trapped under a rock for two thirds of its length. it hardly has any dialogue. the confined space doesn’t allow much action and... i repeat, he’s trapped in a rock, one expects the drama to be scarce, if intriguing.
127 hours is the incredible true story of aaron ralston (james franco), a young mountain climber whose life was never that devoted to others. a loner, ralston’s true passion lies in the few weekends he runs away from the busy city, without giving his family and friends even a single warning of his whereabouts, to the emptiness of the canyons in utah. off he goes to adventure with his backpack and his bike but without his good swiss army knife. franco portrays ralston with charm and skill, so by the time he meets a couple of cute girls in the middle of nowhere, we’re already in love with him, before they are.he leaves them be and continues on his way to the tragic fate waiting for him - a rock falls on him, his right arm is stuck, no one knows where he is, the water supply is low and the sun barely reaches him.
boyle, the director, manages the drama with enough slickness and without feeling repetitive. motifs like the water work like a ticking clock, the blunt knife relates to despair (oh, where’s the swiss army one), the sun is a tiny, barely reachable, notion of freedom. but when all these elements expire, boyle, the screenwriter - in his second collaboration with simon beaufoy - grapples, with all his strength, to the expected hallucinations. then what started as a film about escapism from human contact, shifts to something more dire, aaron ralston needs to re-evaluate his relationships with his family and ex-girlfriend, in other words, in his most lonely, he contemplates the human touch. all presented with interesting pacing, the hallucinations tend to reveal the film’s biggest flaw - the excessive sentimentality. ralston’s girlfriend caressing his chest and saying “i think i found the key to your heart” or the scenes with his father, when he was a child, aren’t staggering and tend to clash with the rest. by the time it reaches the ultimate prediction, a vision of ralston’s future, i was already too concentrated on what was about to come to him in the canyon.
and what comes is shocking.
if you’re one of the few who’s unaware of the final result (it’s a true story with a famous outcome, though, what’s wrong with you?), then i’ll refrain from spoilers. but keep in mind that the famous climax almost reaches the unbearable, in a good way. it would’ve been easy to sell the film with just the shock, and nothing more. but credit to the filmmaker for never exploiting that horrible peak, even the way boyle films and edits this scene seems to be more worried in glorifying that almost inhuman strong will instead of the gore. yes it’s horrible to watch, some even tell tales of cinema-goers vomiting and/or fainting (cinema’s favorite marketing ploy) but it’s surprisingly done with taste and decorum and, in the end, the audience is more prone to burst into applause of sheer admiration than anger for utter disgust.and because of that 127 hours achieves with grace and style. it’s not the most riveting work, and the flaws are open for everybody to see, but at least it will be the main topic of conversation for the rest of the night and you’re sure to never forget your swiss army knife. ever.
[francisco l. silva]