Thursday, 10 February 2011

127 Hours: Movie Review

127 Hours: Movie Review

127 Hours
Rating: 8/10
Cast: James Franco, Kate Mara, Amber Tamblyn
Director: Danny Boyle
So another Oscar contender heads for the big screen.
This time, James Franco gives an Oscar-nominated performance as Aron Ralston, an American climber whose trip into the wild in 2003 changed his life forever when he became trapped down a canyon, with his arm crushed against a wall with a boulder.
Ralston heads out to the canyons on a Friday night in April 2003, not telling family or friends where he's going but simply out on the quest for adrenaline.
He meets two girls (Mara and Tamblyn) before his life changes when he falls down a Utah canyon and is trapped by a boulder.
Over five days, his mental and physical health take their toll as Ralston reflects back on his life and faces the ultimate look at his own mortality.
127 Hours is claustrophobic, uncomfortable viewing in the extreme - thanks to one scene (more on that later).
But it's also terrific, with an undeniable energy and a mesmerising performance from Franco as Ralston.
Given Franco's on screen for most of the film solo, he really needed to pull out all the stops to chart the mental decline, hallucinations, guilt, and memories that Ralston goes through, and he delivers in spades in this total sensory experience of a film.
Every moment, as the camera tracks his wearying expressions, you can't tear your eyes away from Franco; partially that's because of the inevitability of knowing (slight spoiler ahead) he hacks off his own arm with a blunt knife to escape.
Yet it's also a career best for Franco, who has presence aplenty and makes Ralston a multi-faceted character who you care about - despite the guy's fallacies, arrogance and cockiness. If Franco's great, the other star is director Danny Boyle; his visual touches, the simply brilliant soundtrack, the use of flashbacks and memories (as well as premonitions) just means you really can't stop watching what's unfolding in front of you. It's a mightily impressive look into the mind of someone who's falling apart and facing an horrific future.
So to that scene - the one which this film will become known for; the removal of Ralston's arm at his own hand.
It's uncomfortable viewing but it's compelling too - I don't remember the last time I sat in a cinema seat squirming and with nowhere to go, but it's so well done (thanks to bone-crunching sound effects) that it delivers the shock it needs and gives you the emotional and physical release you need after 80 minutes' worth of waiting.
The only real criticism is the jarring final shot of the real Ralston sat on a couch with his wife - it's a real clunker and is becoming this year's fad for true stories. It's really disappointing because it's almost as if the director's saying: "Look we told you this was a true story - and here's the proof." It's narratively flawed and really detracts from what Franco's delivered over the past 90 minutes.

Despite this one flaw, 127 Hours is gut-wrenchingly good, a compelling watch and an unbelievable performance from Franco.

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