movie film review | chris tookey

127 Hours

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  127 Hours Review
Tookey's Rating
8 /10
Average Rating
8.29 /10
James Franco , Lizzy Caplan, Treat Williams
Full Cast >

Directed by: Danny Boyle
Written by: Danny Boyle, Simon Beaufoy, based on the book Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Aron Ralston

Released: 2010
Origin: US
Colour: C
Length: 95

Danny Boyleís last film was the occasionally grim but mostly feelgood Slumdog Millionaire. His very different follow-up pretty much defines the phrase ďharrowing experienceĒ.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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People have been fainting at screenings in the States, and at the viewing I attended one person in my row left just after the most gruesome bit and never came back.

Itís a bravura piece of film-making that captures the resilience of the human spirit better than any movie since the Oscar-winning documentary Touching The Void, but itís certainly not an easy sit.

It depicts seven crucial days in the life of mountain climber and canyoneer Aron Ralston (James Franco, pictured). For the first twenty minutes, he shows us heís a daredevil, free-spirited sort of guy, at home in the outdoors and with a roving eye for the ladies. He introduces two attractive hikers (Kate Mara and Amber Tamblyn) to the joys of jumping into a hidden pool before leaving them to seek out more sensations.

Split-screens and a thumping electronic score by A.R. Rahman emphasise that Aronís a can-do, energetic, adrenaline junkie.

But about 20 minutes in, he falls down a hole and his right arm is trapped between a fallen boulder and the cave wall. We see in his eyes that helplessness is a new sensation for him, and not one he ever expected.

For the next 70 minutes, heís working out how to get free. As his water runs out and he starts to hallucinate, we learn more about his dark side: his selfishness, his unwillingness to commit, his taking his family for granted.

Thanks to Boyleís direction, vibrant cinematography by Anthony Dod Mantle and Enrique Chedak and a wholly committed performance by Franco, weíre never bored. If Leni Reifenstahl hadnít already nabbed the title, it might easily have been called Triumph of The Will.

It helps our empathy that Aron isnít given to whining self-pity; he retains a bleak sense of humour, which is just as well because heís going to need it Ė as well as that cheap, blunt pocket-knife.

Normally, I would not give away the ending, but the story is well-known, and Boyle foreshadows it throughout the movie, teasing the audience with knives and blades long before the end sequence.
Besides, itís only fair to warn potential audience members that the climax involves the most harrowing bone-breaking and amputation scene in the history of cinema.

Itís extremely bloody, and in its realism itís far more involving and upsetting than the foot-sawing scene in the first and best of the Saw series. It will be too much for many people, and itís the reason why I canít imagine this astonishingly well-crafted film achieving mainstream popularity. If youíre squeamish at the sight of blood, donít go.

This is, ultimately, quite a simple piece. We know early on that our heroís main faults are recklessness, self-centredness and narcissism, and itís hard not to feel that he brings his problems upon himself. There are, in the end, no surprises. He learns not to be so much of a loner, and thatís that.

However, Franco gives a tremendous performance that is sure to receive an Oscar nomination, and this, combined with Boyleís visual imagination, makes us share Ralstonís life-changing experience as fully as though we had lived through the trauma ourselves.

I leave it up to you whether you interpret that as a recommendation or a warning.

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