Oct 29, 2010

REVIEW: 127 Hours (dir. Danny Boyle)

Should Danny Boyle have made 127 Hours? If someone put a gun to your head and demanded that you make a motion picture about the climber Aaron Ralston, who fell into a crevasse in Utah, remaining there for four days until he escaped by severing his own arm, then 127 Hours is definitely the best movie you could make. There could be no better film on the subject. Whether the subject demanded a film is another matter. Boyle has talked at length about the challenge of making a movie about a man who remains trapped in the same place — especially when you are as fidgety a filmmaker as Boyle. But he goes at the task with a vengeance. Employing a truly impressive arsenal of techniques — split screens, dream sequences, flashbacks, flashforwards, cameras that plunge up straws and down gullets — Boyle succeeds magnificently in putting the audience right there. You get to feel the existential dread of a filmmaker trapped beneath the weight of an unfilmable folly. The rising panic of someone absolutely terrified of boring the audience. I felt it like to was happening to me. And I was the audience. Yet still I left the cinema limp with relief not to be still back there, trapped in the canyon, dreaming up new and interesting angles to shoot a man trapped beneath a rock. It's quite a drama, alright, but it completely eclipses poor old James Franco. People who like to cream themselves over auterist technical bravura — a not-so-distant relation, you can't help but feel, of the people who used to cream themselves over Pink Floyd guitar solos — will doubtless have themselves a ball. Anyone else will simply have to lump it. The best part of the movie is the first 20 minutes or so, a matter if tiny triumphs and set-backs, playing out in real time, and inverting the usual demands of blockbuster cinema: you too will gasp in sympathy as Ralston seeks to hooks a knife with a twig and hoist it back to his grateful grasp. But pretty soon Boyle is bored and digging around in his bag of tricks. There's one sequence, about an hour in, designed to dramatise a small surge of optimism on Ralston's part: he's managed to rig up a pulley system with which he hopes to hoist the rock from his arm. Boyle goes to town: music, lights, zooming cameras, Bill Withers 'Lovely Day' on the soundtrack. It could almost be the song and dance number from Slumdog Millionaire. You sit there going: where has this come from? The emotion being dramatised is not Franco's hopes for his plan, as Boyle's sobbing relief that he's come up with one. But the pulley system comes to nothing, and Ralston's hopes are dashed; we could almost have done with one of those zzrrzp sound-effects of a needle being ripped from its groove but the effect, of course, would have been unintentionally comic. So we are left with an awkward, slow fade of the Withers song, like a DJ who can't get his floor-emptier off the decks fast enough. The fluctuating season of Boyle's moods, in other words, far eclipses those of his lead actor. Could he have made a film which actually succeeded in placing us in the mind of a man trapped for four days beneath a giant boulder before cutting off his own arm? Of course not. The film would have driven us out of our heads with despair, of which there is scanty evidence here. Both Boyle and Franco can only go so far. It is encumbent on them not to succeed in the task they have set themselves. Or rather, it is encumbent on Boyle to block and interrupt his own star's performance as best he can, like someone covering for a rambling relative. Many of the tricks he deploys are justified by the hallucinations Ralston began to suffer, a few days into his ordeal, without water, except Bole goes there way too soon: in your memory, the film is one lone montage of dream trips and fantasy sequences, right up to the final shot, when we should be feeling the reassuring hardness of reality beneath our feet. This movie is inventive, beautifully shot, and magnificently acted. It is also a conceptual failure — a rocket, off by just a few degrees at launch, that crashes in the rusty Utah desert, like one of the Acme-patented schemes of Wile E Coyote. Oh and the disemberment scene is really unpleasant. C


  1. Outstanding movie. Watching this movie didn't meant to spend time but its a true experience that I can never forget. The concept was extraordinary and found myself lucky as I have seen such a good movie.
    Watch 127 Hours Movie