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127 Hours (Review)

127 Hours (Review)

Going out on a limb.
Feb 9, 2011
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127 Hours
Genre: Adventure, Biography, Drama Release Date: 10/02/2011 Runtime: 94 minutes Country: USA, UK


Director:  Danny Boyle Writer(s): 
Danny Boyle

Simon Beaufoy

Aron Ralston

Cast: Amber Tamblyn, , Kate Mara, Koleman Stinger, Sean Bott, Treat Williams
127 Hours (Review), reviewed by Anders Wotzke on 2011-02-09T01:31:38+00:00 rating 3.0 out of5

Is it unfair to criticise a film based on a true story for being too predictable? Probably, but that’s what I’m about to do: 127 Hours, although superbly performed and visually inventive, is too predictable.

“Hold up…” I hear you retort. “Does that mean you didn’t enjoy Titanic because you knew the boat sinks?  Or found The King’s Speech disappointing because you knew he’d eventually deliver a big speech?”

Not at all. Those films work because there’s ample room for dramatic expansion and cinematic interpretation. Titanic isn’t really about how a boat sinks, it’s about finding true love only to have it torn apart. The King’s Speech isn’t really about how the King of England overcame his stammer, it’s about the unlikely bond that forms between a stiff-lipped royal and a crass commoner. Yes, both films are predictable, but that doesn’t matter in the long run as neither film is defined purely by their outcome.

Regrettably, the same cannot be said about Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours.  Even after seeing it, I can’t help but continue to call it “the movie about a guy who cuts off his arm.” Don’t get me wrong; the tale of how American rock climber Aron Ralston (played by James Franco; Pineapple Express) managed to survive after being trapped beneath a boulder for five days is, without question, an inspirational one. I’m just not convinced it’s a cinematic one. It doesn’t matter how disarming Franco’s single-handed performance is; there is simply not enough dramatic meat on the bones of Ralston’s true story to distract us from where it is heading, leaving us to spend much of the film’s 95-minute runtime wishing it would just hurry up and get there.

And doesn’t Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, Trainspotting) know it. To keep 127 Hours from stagnating, the director turns his bag of cinematic tricks inside out, allowing his signature hyperactivity to run rampant. To his credit, the inventive camera angles, dynamic editing and an invigorating soundtrack does, without a doubt, make for a visual and aural experience like no other. What it doesn’t do, or what it can’t do, is make for a profound or poignant one.

Still, that’s not to say he doesn’t try, as Boyle and co-writer Simon Beaufoy frequently make use of flashbacks and hallucinations to depict Ralston’s severed relationship with his family and ex-girlfriend. What these sequences reveal is how the energetic adventurer has actually been on his lonesome for most of his life, let alone the last 127 hours. Yet these surreal sequences, although visually captivating, are too obscure and underdeveloped to resonate. More time could have been spent fleshing out these relationships prior to the incident, but instead, the first act is wasted on showing Ralston swimming in a hidden cave pool with two female hikers (Amber Tamblyn and Kate Mara). Sure, any male can appreciate the sight of two attractive gals swimming in their underwear, but given how little they weigh into the drama that follows, it’s a waste of crucial screen time.

127 hours061 e1297176505293 600x269 127 Hours (Review)

At its best, however, 127 Hours is not about Ralston’s relationship with his family and friends, but rather his relationship with the audience. In one of the film’s best scenes, Franco has a conversation with his digital video camera – with us – as he lists off all the mistakes he made in his life that lead him to this moment. The way the gifted performer balances heartbreak and humour during this scene is no doubt what caught the eye of the Academy, as behind his naturally charming disposition, you can see Franco fighting away tears. It’s a powerful moment.

Once he switches the camera off, though, Franco is alone once more. And 127 Hours, despite Boyle’s every effort, returns to being a movie about a guy who cuts off his arm.

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