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127 Hours -- Movie Review

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Slumdog Millionaire was nominated for 10 Oscar Awards, winning 8 of them, including Best Picture and Best Director for Danny Boyle. 127 Hours probably won’t be nominated for that many awards, nor will it nab any of the top honours; in spite of this, it’s a much better film than Slumdog...

My problem with that film was how contrived the plot was; I mean what are the chances that every single question this kid has to answer on a game show represents his life in a perfectly chronological order? The final question relating to the three musketeers was as predictable as the sun rising in the morning. 127 Hours, however, follows a true story, and though the majority of the viewers will know exactly how it’s going to end, the journey will be worth it. When reading about a significant event, either in the news, or a book recounting the ordeal, most directors of Boyle’s calibre will see it as a film; they’ll picture in their head how they would make every little scene drip drama, suspense, and Aron Rolston’s biography ‘Between a Rock and a Hard Place’ was a story Boyle had been dreaming of telling for 4 years.

127 Hours is an amazing film. It doesn’t require an extensive, complex overlapping plot. All it needed was a competent director, a star, and a crew dedicated in bringing Ralston’s tale to our attention. It’s exactly what we get. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past couple of months (no pun intended), you’ll know the story of Mr. Rolston. He was a daring mountain climber, who in 2003, travelled to Blue John Canyon in Utah. Why? That doesn’t matter – it’s a hobby. Maybe he likes the release, the sense of freedom. I imagine that’s why anyone who climbs up, and jumps over large crevices without any safety ropes, do what they do. He neglects to tell anyone where he’s going. Long story short, he falls, trapping his right arm underneath a large boulder. He endures 5 days at the bottom of a large canyon, with little sunlight, little water, little to do, and little hope. On the fifth day, he makes the decision to amputate his right arm with a multi-purpose tool. A tiny, inefficient excuse for a blade, he cuts through his own flesh and bone, and escapes, losing more and more blood, before being found wandering through the dusty canyons, and choppered to immediate aid. I do love a happy ending.

It won’t be for everybody; many viewers will be turned off by the lack of movement for what Boyle describes as an ‘action movie with no movement’. The amputation scene is incredibly visual and visceral. Even those hardcore gore fans who sit through the torturous, despairing displays that are the latest additions to the Saw franchise, will have a difficult time preventing that quick glance away as Aron begins to cut through his own veins. Though most know this scene will be coming (as the obvious talking point), the film cleverly adds ominous overtones forewarning us of it’s inevitable arrival, beginning with a shot of Aron reaching around for his penknife before leaving on his journey, but his reaching fingertips fail to make contact. I confess to feeling a bit queasy afterwards, because the film did its job. The gritty, bloody imagery of a man pulling away from the jagged remains of his own forearm will do that to you though. It seemed ridiculously real, and as a film portraying real-life event, it was bang on the money.

Boyle directs this movie with his usual creative exuberance – the film is stylishly made, cutting back and forth with Aron’s past which represents the hallucinations he continues to experience at the bottom of the cold canyon, he sees his family, wishing he could speak to them one more time, telling them how much he cares for them and how much he wishes he could have a second chance with the woman he loves. The kinetic energy the film exudes is impressive, and it’s hard to keep your eyes off it. It’s cinematography is stunning, craftily juxtaposing the harsh, depressing reality of Aron’s situation with the beautiful, vast scene of nature.

Aron is played by James Franco (The Pineapple Express, Spiderman), an actor who has proved himself as an adept actor, earning a Golden Globe for his hilariously charming role in Pineapple Express, and I tell you now, he’s guaranteed to go one further with 127 Hours, and a great chance of bringing home the gold – ultimately, if Colin Firth hadn’t agreed to star in The King’s Speech, Franco would be favourite – but whatever the outcome, the young actor has a great future. His performance here is exceptional. Portraying Rolston as a confident, knowledgeable, and resourceful man, he expertly guides the audience through the film with the way he engages us, and makes him feel for us so that by the end, the emotional outcome really kicks in.

It’s a wonderful story of determination, fighting for survival and hope; it’s beautifully made by Boyle who once again manages to achieve great success by changing genre, and meeting and breaking conventions. It’s definitely worth your time at the cinema, and features a great performance from Franco, flawless cinematography and great input from A. R. Rahman with the movie’s turbulent score (the best thing about Slumdog...) and is a real treat to watch on the big screen. I’d recommend you don’t view on a full stomach though. It won’t end well.


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