Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Run Time: 1 hour, 33 minutes
Starring James Franco
Directed by Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millioniare)
"127 Hours" is the brilliant, unique, and terrifying new movie from Oscar winning director, Danny Boyle. It is a true achievement in filmmaking, and storytelling, and definitely among the year's best films...not to mention a career-performance by star James Franco, who puts on a one-man show of true depth, displaying a wide range of emotions likely to win him some awards as well.
The Plot. 127 Hours gives new meaning to the phrase, "between a rock and a hard place." It is based on the real story of mountaineer Aron Ralston, portrayed as an adrenaline and adventure junkie who goes out exploring in a remote mountain canyon in Utah. The movie wastes no time...we're about to go on a hike to the mountains, and we see him preparing for his outing as the movie begins...jamming to some tunes and throwing his gear together. Insignificantly, he fills up his water jug, and pokes around for his knife (which he doesn't find.) His mother calls his cell, but he's too excited to answer and lets it go to voice mail. These scenes would become important when we see what happens next.
As he dangerously explores a certain portion of canyon, Aron loses footing and falls down a ravine...getting his arm pinned under a heavy boulder. Not just pinned, his arm is crushed between the rock. Obviously this is an unfortunate thing to have happen, but misfortune turns to tragedy when he realizes that there is no way to free himself of the boulder. He is also in the middle of absolutely nowhere. And the movie begins.
Time is on your side. The film's title refers to the length of time Aron is pinned before his unbelievable action to free himself. You may have heard what he does, but I won't ruin it here. Amazingly, within 10 minutes of the film beginning, Aron gets pinned...and with another 80 minutes of film remaining we are watching a man pinned under a rock, and it is somehow a breath-takingly intense experience. Unlike the movie Castaway, where Tom Hanks shared screen time with his volleyball friend, Wilson, here James Franco doesn't even have the pleasure of moving about an island. In Castaway, Hanks was isolated, but the movie had some wiggle room as he could explore his surroundings. Here, amazingly enough, the movie takes place in it's entirety, yet is quite riveting.
Stuck in the Middle. The movie works as we see the increasing bleakness of the situation. With one arm free, Aron is able to reach his gear, and our brains work alongside his to figure out how best to use the materials at his disposal. Like a high school math problem, we are given certain materials and given a problem to solve...but what if there is no solution?
As he tries each and every possible idea, we begin to run out of hope right along with him. The longer he is pinned, he grows more and more desparate. We get intense glimpses into his mind, some flashbacks of a rocky relationship, some visions of his future, some daydreams of things that could have been. What would run through your mind if you thought your days were numbered? What regrets would you have? Amazing that this plays out only in Franco's expressions and performance, guided by the visual style of director Danny Boyle.
Remember the opening scenes? Where there was water carelessly swishing out of his container? Why couldn't he have just found his knife, or answered the call from his mom? Surely he would have mentioned where he was headed at least. Franco runs through the whole gamut of human emotions. He has a newfound respect for the things he has in his life, and this movie strangely gives the viewer the same sense.
Peak Performances. Did I mention how great Franco is here? His performance is a large part of why the film works. How does Danny Boyle make 127 Hours fly by like it was 10 minutes? I am now convinced that Boyle could make a film on paint drying, and it would probably be one of the most important films of our time. Surely, whatever his next project, I am convinced he can make it work. In the end, their performance as actor and director are only some of the wonders of the film...it also looks and sounds beautiful. It's the kind of movie that will gain award nominations in categories like Sound Mixing and Cinematography, or in other words, a complete Oscar-worthy movie from top to bottom.
Nobody wants to be caught between a rock and a hard place, especially after seeing 127 Hours. But you won't feel trapped when you check it out....a definite must-see and a true achievement that, dare I say, is among the best films of 2010...by a landslide (pun intended).
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