127 Hours Review

It seems a long time ago since the Spiderman trilogy was on our screens. I was quick to make my opinion known that they featured too much cheesy dialogue and not enough bang for the buck. However, amidst the corny plots and wooden scripting, two actors stood out from the rest – Alfred Molina as Doctor Octopus (who is awesome in just about everything), and James Franco as Harry Osborn. The latter was an up-and-coming star, and Danny Boyle’s latest offering – 127 Hours – puts the entire weight of a 94 minute film solely on the weight of this actor. Is Boyle’s new ‘feel good’ film able to take the strain?

127 Hours is a film based around the real-life event that occurred when Aron Ralston decided to take on a canyon trek in the Utah desert, but forgot to tell anyone where he was going. Catastrophe struck when a loose boulder sent him tumbling down a crevice, landing on his arm and trapping him at the bottom. This film follows his struggle through the 127 hours of being trapped in the canyon, before realising he only had one option left if he wanted to get out of there alive.

Unless you’ve had your head stuck in sand, chances are you probably know the outcome of this film already. Danny Boyle took on a story which had a problem from the offset – if we knew how it would end, how could a story be made to be exciting or interesting? Thankfully, the acclaimed director has proven once again why he rightfully deserves his seat at the awards. Even if you know the outcome of this harrowing tale, it rarely detracts from the events of the film. Boyle does just about everything he could possibly do in a film about one man trapped in a canyon, before leading the viewers to the inevitable denouement.

Considering the narrative, you might be inclined to think there’s a lot of back-story before the film gets underway, but you’d be wrong. After about ten minutes or so, the boulder has fallen, and James Franco takes the only spotlight around. I’ve not seen an actor show such talent since Heath Ledger’s performance as The Joker. I’ve only seen Franco as the over-the-top villain in Spiderman, and the stoner in Pineapple Express. This seems his best role to date, and he thrives on the challenge. He goes through a full range of emotions, from the humourous to the terrified. Together, him and Boyle trap the audience in that canyon, and tell the back story through various flashbacks and hallucinations. These provide most of the film’s laughs and surprises, at the expense of taking the audience out the canyon and loosing a claustrophobic atmosphere. Some of this scenes occasionally go off on tangents however, which made me wonder if Boyle was trying to clock up a longer running time. Some of these scenes also attempt to trick the audience, but if you already know the ending, you aren’t going to fall for it.

This film is entirely focused on the acting of one man and the script. Both have been pulled off with aplomb, delivering a film that provides enough empathy with the characters to rival that of Touching The Void. I often noted good use of audio throughout, from the split-screens at the beginning to the more gruesome scenes at the end. I should say this film should not be judged on the much-hyped ‘three minute scene’ at the end – it makes for uncomfortable viewing, but it is in no way as gratuitous as some make it out to be.

I wish James Franco all the best in his future career, and I hope this film receives some recognition at the upcoming awards ceremonies. The film falls short by perhaps being a tad too short, and despite Boyle’s best efforts, a film can only demand so much of an audience if we know the full narrative already. But to make a film of such calibre despite these set-backs is an achievement in itself. It is an involving and engaging tale of humanity, and what people are capable of in the face of overwhelming odds. The moral of the story is clearly labelled in the end credits – always tell people where you’re going. ‘Oops’ indeed.

8/10

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