Friday, December 3, 2010

127 Hours or What happens when you don't tell your parents where you're going



127 Hours (R) ★★★½

I'm not one that has completely warmed up to Danny Boyle's stylistic flourishes over the years, however I don't deny the guy has talent. I dug Slumdog Millionaire for what it was, a preposterous but exciting movie-going exercise and I still think Trainspotting is his best film. 127 Hours, his latest exercise in stylistic overkill is a rather Jekkyl and Hyde type of film, it represents the best and worst of Boyle's mannerisms. However, here the good outweighs the bad. If you haven't read the news of late, it's based on Aron Ralston, a man that so it happens went hiking one day and ended up in a freakish fall that got his hand stuck underneath an immovable rock, even worse nobody knew he went out to hike, given his loner personality, thus he was left to fend off alone and find a way to get out of his rather astonishing situation. Supposedly, the only way to get out of there was by amputating his own arm, which is part of what makes this astonishing true story even more remarkable and -wait for it- touching.

I won't go into further detail, not that I need to considering the film is basically Ralston -impeccably played by James Franco- stuck in a cave, screaming for help and finding ways to survive. Because this is a Danny Boyle film , he brings overkill to what is in essence a story that should be simply told, considering the thinness of its dramatic surprises and momentum. Boyle gives us flashbacks to Ralston's youth and adolescence but he also showcases the hallucinations that end up happening in our main protagonists' head during his surreal, grueling experience. All of this leads to the amputation scene which is, needless to say, harrowing to watch and accentuated by a soundtrack filled with needled, spiky and uncomfortable sounds. The deliverance in the film's final moments is touching and uplifting, which gives this film a kind of crowd pleasing vibe to it, even after the graphic details of the amputation have already passed.

The film starts to run its course a bit in its mid section, by resorting to Raston's flashbacks and visionary hallucinations but when the amputation scene hits, you won't even know what hit you. It's tough to watch but also represents one of the most memorable scenes of any movie I have seen in 2010 ditto Franco's acting, he pulls a Tom Hanks here and is alone for close to 80% of the film, which is all the more remarkable considering he is stuck in the same setting and in the same standing position throughout the film. When he craves that last drop of water, we crave that last drop of water, when he stabs his arm, we feel it too. It's not an easy watch and although flawed in its stylistic excess, at times it had me hooked in its hero and the perpetually harrowing experience he must have had. But I found the writing lacking. There's really very little to the movie other than Franco's face and survival efforts. Very little depth/revelation. It is a stunt and one that Boyle admirably decides to overcome, giving his viewer every possible trick in the book. Don't get me wrong, 127 Hours is a good enough movie but there's only so much you can do with a one man story such as this one.

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