Thursday, January 13, 2011

127 Hours Can Fly By

127 Hours
(spoiler free review)

Boyle's unflinching and stylistic direction elevate a static 127 hours to a thunderously heart thumping level; such an apt and distinctive quality, as the film is aided by an equally thunderous and heart thumping soundtrack that even Quentin Tarantino would have to take notice.

Review: Spoilers Ahead

      Inevitably, every living, breathing soul must boldly face a defining moment of life or death—some individuals are marred by a panicky disposition that clouds our judgment while others are capable of an exacting resiliency, refusing to accept a grim fate.  Director Danny Boyle's mesmerizing portrait of this unenviable circumstance is beautifully captured in his latest film, 127 Hours.  The director tasks the equally handsome and enthusiastic, though unproven actor, James Franco, with the intensive, all-encompassing role of Aron Ralston.  No longer can a film critic deride Franco as a wasteful, unproven commodity.

      127 Hours marks Franco's seminal career moment, which is a watershed point of any ambitious actor's journey for substantial work.  Undoubtedly, Franco always looks the part of the budding movie star.  But an arsenal of inconsequential and superfluous roles has intimated something different.  Is Franco capable of meaningful and weighty dramatic work?  127 Hours makes a definitive proclamation for the affirmative.  An actor's greatest responsibility is commensurate with an ability to convey believable emotion. Commanding more presence than a four-star general, Franco furiously inhabits his real life character, and evokes an intensely simplistic gravity.  In particular, there is a scene, when Ralston begins to realize the imminent doom of his increasingly perilous circumstance—as has been widely revealed, Ralston is trapped at the bottom of a canyon, pinned beneath an impenetrable rock.  After a brief hallucination and a spurt of shrieking, desperate cries for help, Ralston looks at his hand-held camera and helplessly laments, "don't lose it...Aron do not lose it." This moment is marked by a deafening poignancy and an unforgettable stillness.  The viewer suspects that Aron is succumbing to overwhelming despair and uncertainty—likely, for the first time in his life. 
      In an illusory sense, the actor/director team is striving to induce a specific audience reaction.   Therefore, a film is not a composition of unrelated sequences, but a narrative summation of purposefully imposed decisions and images.  Danny Boyle is an enormously talented auteur and his ability to tread this audience/professional line is impeccably executed.  Boyle implements a dual style and execution that is refreshingly distinctive. Fueled by an unmistakable flourish of blindingly quick, colorfully and restlessly consistent cuts, Boyle powers a storytelling energy that is visually and narratively explosive. For instance, our first visual foray into 127 Hours is marked by a unique technical device, as Boyle splits the screen into three scenes of ongoing action.  He weaves this three-screen technique with a masterful control and in doing so, transplants the audience into this visceral journey—as we watch our protagonist rushing down the big city's illuminated freeways, driving towards a solitude only found in an adventurer's life—defined by an insatiable thirst for adrenaline.
       Boyle's oeuvre is uniquely auspicious because of his unrelenting technical originality.  He possesses an uncanny knack for delivering an extraordinarily original image that burns in the audience's retinas long after the end credits roll.  Our film-going appetite for shock-and-awe-caliber cinematography is universal—the unprecedented success of Avatar is evidence of this widely held belief.  Although, many will point to the disturbing sequence, where Ralston cuts his arm off; the scene that euphorically registers with me occurs much earlier in the film.  Aron is feverishly trekking through the vast Canyon, when he accidentally falls into a narrow slit, pinning his arms against a boulder.  Desperately, he calls out to the two female hikers, Kristi (played by Kate Mara) and Megan (played by Amber Tamblyn) that he previously acquainted with at the outset of his hike.   The camera swiftly pulls out of this forsaken slit and we become giddy witnesses to a sprawling view of this distant crack, lost in a vast wasteland of rock.
      There is a particularly memorable scene that transpires early in the film.  While conducting a mock talk show interview that would make Rupert Pupkin proud, Ralston berates himself for being a quintessential, self-absorbing hero: "I can do everything on my own."  In order to avoid any satirizing pitfalls, Boyle focuses the camera on Ralston's dejected face, as he derisively utters, "Oops."  At this moment, the audience is witness to two stirring certainties: firstly, Franco is a bona fide actor and secondly, Boyle is an immensely talented director.   Specifically, Franco’s eyes shrewdly illustrate the depths of his narcissistically induced failure—by venturing into the treacherous Blue John Canyon alone—Ralston's individualistic and isolationist lifestyle has pushed him further apart from his family, his friends, and a woman who once loved him (played by Clémence Poésy).   Moreover, Boyle's tactful genius, as a director, is realized seconds later, when he captures the second "oops" moment; though this time, from a different, more intimate and privately inspired angle—shots such as this are examples of pure genius, and send goosebumps straight down my spine.
       One can only extol virtues of greatness to a finite point before remunerative praises become repetitious acknowledgments.  But the power of performance infused by Boyle's direction and Franco's acting is unequivocally immense.  Palettes of color illuminate private moments of desperation—there is a scene, where Ralston is teetering towards dehydration, and Boyle cuts to a shot of Ralston's jeep where a full bottle of Gatorade stubbornly sits.  Dual tenets of great filmmaking are, in fact, visual artistry and narrative lucidity; two defining hallmarks of 127 hours.  Boyle's unflinching and stylistic direction elevate a static 127 hours to a thunderously heart thumping level; such an apt and distinctive quality, as the film is aided by an equally thunderous and heart thumping soundtrack that even Quentin Tarantino would have to take notice.  Well Tarantino; the name's Boyle. Danny Boyle.

9 out of 10

*Below is the full length official trailer for 127 Hours.


  1. a lovely review, MDV, is the film too disturbing for watching? I still haven't gathered enough courage to watch it :)

  2. Thanks Dez!

    Except for one, shockingly gory (though accurate) scene, the film is NOT too disturbing to watch. As soon as you get a chance, watch this film. It does not just rely on a stellar acting or directing performance, but beautifully marries the two crucial elements—and what the audience gets is an awesome, thrilling film.

  3. Great article, likewise I've yet to watch it and I've also heard so much about that one particular scene. Gulps. But I'll watch it nevertheless.

    You've just got me more determined on a box office ticket purchase to 127 hours when it releases over at my side of the world Matt ;)

  4. Thanks J-Son!

    That scene is worthy of much conversation. Admittedly, I had to look away for parts of it (I get queasy easier than most).

    I am glad I helped motivate your desire to see it and I'm sure you will love it. Yeah, I wanted to see this film since I first heard about it at the Toronto Film Festival, but it took awhile before I got to. The wait is well worth it in the end.

  5. well, that gory one is what I had in mind, MDV (ps what's your name, it's weird calling you by initials) I'm afraid of the scene when he cuts his hand off :(

  6. Dez, you will have to be brave for the sake of the movie because it is worth it. Like I did, you can look away or cover your eyes for a bit.

    My name is Matt lol and thanks for asking! I'm new to blogging. I'll change it to my name so it's not as weird and off-putting.

  7. Great write-up man! This latest offering from Boyle is just an unbelievable tale charting the personal highs and lows over 127 hours of a young man's life. A film that dares to be different and avoids many melodramatic biopic mistakes.

  8. @Jaccstev

    Thanks man! I am glad you enjoyed it. I also enjoyed your review of 127 Hours and I realized I needed to write my own. It's just one of those films that intensely wraps a hold of you and takes you somewhere you didn't think you would go.

  9. Excellent review as usual! :) I agree with you about pretty much everything you're saying. Boyle is a cinematic phenomenon who always deliver 100%.

  10. Thanks Nebular!

    Yes it is hard not to be in awe of Boyle's direction. This movie just friggen blew me away. My expecations were high, but they were exceeded!