Sunday, 20 March 2011

127 Hours

An Honourable Failure, 11 January 2011

Author: gary-444 from United Kingdom

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I am a huge fan of Director Danny Boyle's work, but this time around he tried something different, and didn't quite succeed. Tackling a story which centres on a largely motionless man deep in a ravine is a big challenge, and is not one which he successfully overcomes. Lead actor James Franco as Aron Ralston does well enough but there is not an awful lot to go on.

Based on a true story the film opens up with shots of him as an adrenaline junkie, mountain biking in the Utah desert and canyoneering, long distance running across it. Curiously, in real life he was an able graduate in Mechanical Engineering and French, although that intelligence is never revealed to counter some fairly reckless behaviour.

The scenery is fantastic, and the opening act when he chances upon two girls and leads them part of the way is Boyle at his best, playful, pacey and eventful, if a little unlikely. But inevitably once Ralston is trapped, the dramatic options are a bit limited. To his credit, Boyle eschews "faction" scenes of encounters with cougars, snakes, near misses by passing helicopters and half heard voices of walkers – but in fact that does not leave much. We have a storm scene whose dramatic and cinematic potential is underplayed, and then the inevitable self-mutilation.

Flash backs pre-dominate and hallucinations unfold, but we never really know enough about Ralston to really care. Then when he does escape from the boulder, a demanding 20m descent is dealt with in a perfunctory manner, he stumbles across some walkers, a helicopter arrives – and that is it. No denouement, no context. It all feels a little unsatisfactory, a bit like the Billboard Poster which is an invention and depicts no physical part of the film.

The music is also poor. Discordant and jarring, it's use as a high octane accompaniment to the biking works, but otherwise it does not work well to try to crank up some artificial excitement. The self-amputation is gruesome and graphically depicted in all of Boyle's gory glory, but that isn't enough in a running time which at 94 minutes feels simultaneously long, and incomplete.


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