Film Review: 127 Hours

Danny Boyle has never shied away from the visceral. 127 Hours is no different, blending the buoyancy of Slumdog Millionaire with a graphicness that will be difficult to watch for some audience members. Nevertheless, 127 Hours is highly recommended.

Aron Ralston is an avid mountain climber, who is accomplished enough to partake in the sport by himself. Spending a weekend canyoneering in Utah alone, disaster strikes when he becomes trapped by a boulder…

Based on the true story, it seems surprising that Boyle and screenwriter Simon Beaufoy would be able sustain a compelling film from a man being trapped alone for such a length of time. They do, however, and with some aplomb. 127 Hours is a fantastically engrossing film that really captures the imagination.

Anyone who has heard of Aron Ralston, or is even slightly aware of what the film is about, will have an idea of the outcome. Thus, there is a palpable tension every time Aron handles the multi-tool; waiting for the inevitable. The film is about so much more than this, nevertheless. 127 Hours is a tremendous survival story that rightly depicts Ralston as a remarkable human being to have endured such ordeal. The fact that he focuses on his family to help keep his sanity throughout his entrapment shows a very human side to a person who at times seems superhuman in physical and mental strength.

Even in the most gruesome horror film screening, you are unlikely to find an audience that will squirm as much. This is partly because what is depicted actually happened in real life, and partly due to the intensely visceral nature of the scene where Aron finally frees himself.

127 Hours‘ imagery is bright, mixing the natural landscape with a variety of external (and internal) illustrations. The cornucopia of colours of the crowd scenes at the ball game, for example, contrasts with the scenes of Aron in the canyon, and the extreme close-ups of the water in his bottle. Colours are heightened; the blue of the swimming pool and the orange of the Utah landscape appear unreal. Music works to great effect in 127 Hours, propelling the film forward and cementing the atmosphere.

Danny Boyle’s direction is on point; effectively conveying the trauma of the situation, but also injecting 127 Hours with moments of humour. Editing is excellent too, from the quick cutting of the goriest sequence to repetitive shots of Aron angling the rope, which deftly expresses the frustration of the situation.

Given the nature of the narrative, James Franco really has to carry the film. He does this well, demanding an emotional response from viewers. Franco certainly deserves recognition for this performance.

Those that are squeamish should not be deterred from seeing 127 Hours; it is a fantastic adaptation of an amazing story.

127 Hours was screened at the British Film Institute’s London Film Festival in October 2010.