Thursday, October 28, 2010

54th BFI London Film Festival: 127 Hours (2010)

127 Hours, 2010.

Directed by Danny Boyle.
Starring James Franco, Kate Mara, Amber Tamblyn, Clémence Poésy and Lizzy Caplan.

127 Hours poster

The true story of mountain climber Aron Ralston, who found himself trapped by a boulder for five days in May 2003.

127 Hours James Franco
Slumdog Millionaire had phenomenal success, winning eight Oscars and seven BAFTA’s to name just a few awards it picked up. So how do the same filmmaking team follow up a movie that has literally won everything? Danny Boyle (director) and Simon Beaufoy (writer) give you... 127 Hours.

Based on Aron Ralston’s book Between a Rock and a Hard Place, the film details his horrific ordeal whilst climbing a canyon in Utah. He falls down a crevasse and his right arm gets trapped by a loose boulder that pins him down in the crack of an awesomely desolate valley. Aron, being a self-confessed ‘hard nut’, goes on his adventure without notifying anybody of his whereabouts, something that it quite humourously dealt with at the end of the film: “Aron now leaves a note letting people know where he is going”.

Boyle expertly takes the audience in to the ‘situation’ Aron (played very well by James Franco) finds himself in. In a few films that are quite claustrophobic audiences feel threatened by the scenarios, but as well as that in 127 Hours I found myself constantly thinking ‘what would I do in this situation?’ after every attempt Aron makes to try and free himself. His final option, which many already know, is still done in highly dramatic and real fashion. There have been reports that several people have fainted during the scene where he frees himself, and in an interview with TXT Movie Club Boyle says “The danger is that it becomes the be all and end all of seeing the movie. What follows is a moment of redemption where he enters into the sunlight. People should see it in that context. I hope it doesn’t put people off who feel that they might get too distressed by it. It’s not distressing in that sense, but it is intense.”

The film has a similar feel to the recent released Buried starring Ryan Reynolds. Both protagonists find themselves trapped in seemingly inescapable positions, the only difference is that Boyle mixes things up a bit. I’m not taking anything away from Buried, I thoroughly enjoyed that film, nor am I comparing it directly to 127 Hours. But Boyle uses flash backs, hallucinations and a range of creative camera angles to liven up what has the potential to be a boring sequence of events. Seeing someone trapped for a long while, there is only so much you can do with a brief like that to work from, but Boyle’s flair is tried and tested here - and it passes with flying colours.

Another interesting dimension added to the dilemma is Aron’s humour. He has with him a camcorder and a digital camera (which he uses to take a photo of an important possession he leaves behind when he escapes). He records videos for his family should he not make it back and makes funny remarks to help keep his spirits up. Either through humour or insanity he also mock interviews himself, even saying “you didn’t even tell anyone where you were going? Oops!” If these video recordings are indeed based on the Ralston’s actual messages then it really does show his inner strength.

Danny Boyle teams up with two cinematographers on this film, one of whom he has worked with before on Slumdog. Slumdog had a dazzling array of bright colours in a lot of scenes that were captured beautifully, and in 127 Hours there is one colour that is dominant - orange. Rich orange covers the terrain that Aron explores and although it is a dominant feature it is not over baring. The battle of man vs nature is portrayed excellently and the aerial shots of the canyon really emphasise its beauty, vastness and unpredictability.

Overall the film is gripping, more funny than I thought it would be, thought provoking and it has a powerful ending with shots of the real Aron and his young family. Boyle can again add another film to his consistently great filmography.

Jon Dudley is a freelance film and television journalist and his 17-minute short film Justification was shown at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival.

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