Friday, July 8, 2011

Startlingly Alive - "127 Hours" Review

After the tremendous success of Slumdog Millionaire, director Danny Boyle, having won an Oscar for that film, could have tackled any story he could imagine.  Boyle has directed some truly epic films, with 28 Days Later and Sunshine, but is notorious for changing his style with every film he creates.

However, instead of widening his scope Danny Boyle has decided to widen the valley of possibilities in modern filmmaking by narrowing his scope to a particular valley in Utah.

127 Hours tells the horrifically claustrophobic, true story of Aron Ralston, an adrenaline junkie who enjoys spending time alone in the wilderness.  However, Aron isn't the kind of guy who is out to enjoy the splendor and dangers that the wilderness might provide.  Instead, he is out to conquer Mother Nature.

The beginning of the film plays like a Mountain Dew commercial, even featuring Mountain Dew in the film, with Aron riding his bike over insane mountainous terrain and vaulting across inhuman gaps with ease.  Aron openly scoffs at his guidebook's recommended times for trails, suggesting that he is going to take an hour off of them.

Aron's flight through the wilds is short-lived when he slips down a canyon wall, dislodging a large boulder in the process.  The boulder lands squarely on his right forearm, crushing it and pinning him to the wall in the process.  No matter how hard he might try, he cannot pull it free.

No one knows where he's gone, he has no cell phone, and his food/water supply is incredibly limited.  It seems that Aron's lone wolf nature has finally betrayed him.  The rest of the film follows his 127 Hours of being trapped under the boulder, dealing with his newfound realization of how important it is to have people in your life, until he, in a now famous moment, slowly cuts his arm off with a dull knife.

These moments could have been portrayed in an incredibly inert manner, but Danny Boyle, never one to back down from a challenge, has made them more magical than most other films released this year.   The visuals pop and swim before your eyes, with some amazing split-screen sequences that frame Aron's reality and emotion in an incredibly fun way.

Returning from Slumdog Millionaire is Oscar-winning composer A. R. Rahman.  Rahman injects an incredible sense of life into the film, which transforms a painful experience into one of sensational kineticism.

127 Hours would fall just as fast as the famous boulder if it didn't feature an incredible actor as Aron.  That actor is James Franco (the Spiderman movies) who delivers his finest and certainly one of this year's finest performances.  He manages to combine escalating terror with biting humor in a natural and nuanced performance.  The viewer will never doubt the reality of his situation for a single second.

All of this combines to create some incredibly powerful scenes that are equally fun and entertaining as they are cringe inducing and terrifying.   At the same time, some scenes don't come out as powerful, particularly some rather conventional hallucination scenes.  This is only because the scenes sandwiched around them stand as the best film has to offer.

The experience of 127 Hours is one of grueling intensity that may not be for everyone.  The violence in the film is relegated to one short scene and is quite intense, but if the viewer thinks he/she can handle it or avert his/her eyes; the film is way more entertaining than it has any right to be.

Danny Boyle's, with the amazing support of James Franco, new masterpiece 127 Hours, is a celebration of the human spirit and determination.  Aron's passion for life has been directly injected into the spirit of this film and as a result it is, in the face of difficulty, daringly alive.

No comments:

Post a Comment