127 Hours (2010) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

127 Hours (2010)

Danny no longer writes for Can't Stop the Movies, and can be reached at his fantastic site Pre-Code.com

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127 Hours is a lot of things. A showcase for James Franco, another brilliant film from Danny Boyle, a harrowing tale of survival, and, as the most amazing thing, based on a true story.

The story of a carefree solitude-nut named Aron Ralston, he's decided to go out into the mountains and try an obscure route on foot. Trouble arrives quickly when a rock slips as he climbs down it. He's trapped.

What sounds like a deceptively simple premise (see also Buried from earlier this year) is imbued with director Boyle's attention deficit tendencies. That robs the audience of a sense of claustrophobia on one hand, but allows the film ratchet up the tension through fantasies, memories, half remembered truths, and bleak illustrations of what Aron's reality truly entails.

Boyle does an excellent job demonstrating how deep into the desert Ralston is headed.

If the premise sounds TV-movie-ish, the film is careful to subvert those expectations. Besides Boyle's hyperkinetic style (demonstrated early on with an opening of three-way split screens filled with cheering audiences and coordinated sporting events, a nod to Ralston's rather inflated sense of self), the movie plays coyly with the usual expectations of flashbacks. Carefully constructing them from Ralston's own point of view, they're random, fleeting moments that lack context but speak to the same randomness of memory that we fall upon when all seems lost.

And all did seem lost to Ralston. What happens during those 127 titular hours is revealing in a base sense; are we not all Ralstons? Are we not invincible? Ralston's snap back to reality, shattering his own illusions about his life and his reality, are a sobering shock to the audience.

Speaking of shocks, though, the movie isn't afraid to shy away from Ralston's desperation. He becomes transformed over five days with little water, no food, and his inability to move an arm. The arm is broken and hidden except for one bloody, purple thumb, and his attempts to free himself only seem to make his situation worse.

The film could also be called '93 Minutes of James Franco's Face' and it's still a pretty good deal.

Franco is great in the role as it's essentially a one-man show for most of its running time. While I won't toss around a phrase like 'national treasure' glibly, Franco here continues to be an actor of unparalleled fearlessness and vulnerability. A part as unglamorous as this would be a challenge for anyone, and Franco gives it unmatched relish and realism.

In a year filled with movies that twist and turn as much as they can, flopping about in a desperate attempt to seem deeper than they actually are (Inception and Black Swan, I'm looking at you), 127 Hours takes its subject straight-on and explores both our nation's god complex and what drives us. It manages to reconcile the two with simple old fashioned responsibility; if only that would catch on.

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Posted by Danny

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