127 Hours : Where rock meets hard place. 127 Hours is -- trust me on this -- an inspiring story of self-amputation. The film dramatizes canyoneer Aron Ralstons ordeal when a falling boulder pinned him against a rock face for five days.
It sounds agonizing, and there is an atmosphere of desperation and loneliness through much of the movie. Yet in the wizardly hands of director Danny Boyle ( Slumdog Millionaire ), the nightmare becomes a tribute to Ralstons bravery -- without casting him as a hero. He just got tired of waiting to die and decided to live. James Franco plays Ralston as a frolicking daredevil.
In the introductory scenes A.R. Rahmans score yells youth and vigor, while split screens contrast Ralston, self-sufficiently setting off for a solo day of mountain biking and camping, with the herds of workaday sheep heading off to drab office routine. Ralston powers his mountain bike to a crash and gets up laughing.
He meets a couple of cute girl climbers and charms the pants off them (just about). They pick up on his carefree narcissism. How much do you think well factor into his day? one asks her companion.
The line packs a satirical punch, yet his new friends do play a recurring part in the dreams, premonitions and hallucinations that flood the climbers mind once hes trapped. Connections to his family and ex-girlfriend Rana (Clemence Poesy) remind Ralston that, despite being submerged in pretty deep doo-doo, he has something to live for.
Flights of fantasy. Youd suspect that once Ralston winds up wedged into a narrow gorge with a Nalgene water bottle, a sandwich and no cell phone, the film would become an essay in claustrophobia like the recent Buried, which confined its hero to a coffin for 90 excruciating minutes. Far from it. 127 Hours follows Ralstons memory and imagination on digressive flights, and thats the films central flaw.
Chuck Zlotnick, Fox Searchlight. James Franco in 127 Hours. Boyle puts a camera inside Ralstons flask to show his ever-dwindling supply of water. He zooms up, up and away from Ralstons cramped prison to a satellites perspective of Utahs Canyonlands National Park. He switches to Ralstons video camera point-of-view as he clowns through a game show parody to lift his spirits, then dictates a heartfelt farewell to his family.
Boyles camerawork is so hyperactive and his editing so manic that the tedious gravity of Ralstons predicament rarely weighs on us. Id have been happier if the film made us feel trapped, too. Francos performance, by turns pathetic and captivating, is powerful enough to hold our attention. 127 Hours is fundamentally a punishing coming-of-age story as a cocky daredevil has the ego pounded out of him by indifferent nature. Francos crestfallen expression as he realizes the series of selfish steps that brought him to this brutal comeuppance is more eloquent than any dialogue.
When he tearfully tells his mother in a video message, I wish Id returned all of your phone calls, you feel it in your throat. Lets cut to the chase: the amputation of Ralstons wedged appendage with a dull multitool blade.
Its vivid and intense without being offensively graphic or gory. Boyle knows that simply imagining the event will give viewers the heebie-jeebies. I winced, averting my eyes once or twice, but when it was over my overall feeling was of admiration for Boyles tact.
The queasiest aspect of the sequence is a jangling sound effect symbolizing the agony of severing a stubborn tendon. It will make your toes curl like a whizzing dental drill pressing down on a raw nerve. If a Best Sound Oscar can go to a single audio effect, we have a winner. Colin Covert 612-673-7186.