127 Hours Review

poster for the Film4 Film 127 Hours

Yeah, yeah, I know. This movie came out ages ago. It’s not a new movie at all. Well I had planned to see something new – maybe The Rite, but then I checked the listings and found that my theater was FINALLY getting a limited release of 127 Hours, so I had to go. I’ve underestimated Danny Boyle before and I’ve always been sorry, plus if I saw it I would be slightly more qualified to pick Oscar winners than before. So I went to that instead. If you’re drawing a blank on which movie I mean, it’s the one that goes like this:

A hiker gets trapped in a canyon when a rock pins his arm.

That’s it. Pretty simple. The best stories usually are. Plus it’s got the added appeal of being a true story. It’s currently nominated for six Oscars, all of them in big categories: best actor, film editing, original score, original song, adapted screenplay, and best picture. But as you well know, the Academy and I hardly ever agree. So was 127 Hours really as good as all that? Ish.


Let me explain. Danny Boyle has made a lot of films that I’ve been blown away by after seeing the trailers and expecting not to like them: A Life Less Ordinary, 28 Days Later, Slumdog Millionaire, etc. So this time I was actually expecting to be blown away and I never quite got there. 127 Hours was impressive, but it’s not my favorite Danny Boyle film. If I had to rank them on some sort of Danny Boyle Scale of Awesome, 127 Hours would come in somewhere just above Millions and just under Trainspotting.

The Danny Boyle Scale of Awesome

Making this movie was risky, because it’s pretty much a one man show. Aron Ralston (James Franco), meets two girls (Amber Tamblyn and Kate Mara) in the beginning and has a few flashbacks later on, but all of the other characters in the movie are only around for a few minutes. It’s all Aron, all the time (naturally, since he’s stuck, ALONE, in a canyon). One location, one character… unless you’ve got one hell of an actor and a lot of directorly tricks up your sleeve, that gets boring real fast. Mostly it works, but pretty much all the action, humor, etc. is in the beginning.

the girls and Aaron shimmy through a canyon in the Film4 Film 127 Hours

Wait, random stranger, you want us to drop down WHERE?!

James Franco is one hell of an actor, that’s for sure. He has to carry the entire movie, but he can’t get too emotional because he’s got to stick close to what the real Aron Ralston was like – an invincible tough guy know-it-all. He’s got a video camera to talk to and the occasional flashback that he doesn’t really interact with, and that’s it. His only other companions are ants, the rock that ruined his life, and the few meager tidbits of gear he brought with him.

Aron's gear in the Film4 Film 127 Hours

Obviously he was never a boy scout, or he’d BE PREPARED

This is the status quo and it goes on for days (or, if you like, for 127 Hours. Yes that is where the title comes from). I guess it makes sense that it can get a little draggy sometimes. Life sure was draggy for Aron, if you ignore the undercurrent of danger and the very real possibility that he could die.

Aron yells for help in the Film4 Film 127 Hours

Let’s play a game: it’s called, time how long I can scream.

And speaking of ignoring danger, that’s the lesson here. Aron was one of those guys who thinks they’re invincible, that safety is for wimps and climbing buddies are for people who don’t know what they’re doing. This attitude gets him into an awful lot of trouble, and the movie makes sure you know it was all his fault. Not only does he take the more dangerous path every time, but he never even told anyone where he was going. If you take one thing away from 127 Hours the movie wants it to be: “tell people where you’re going.” It’s a modern parable, really. Like Hansel and Gretel or Little Red Riding Hood.

Young Aron and his dad in the Film4 Film 127 Hours

You see, son, in the future you will be a twat, and it will almost get you killed.

Aron and the movie would like you to believe that his attitude stems from selfishness, but I would argue it comes from good old fashioned stupidity. Selfishness is getting trapped in a canyon because you refused to share your granola bars and nobody wants to hike with you anymore. Stupidity is getting trapping in a canyon because you were too cool to tell anyone you were nipping off to Utah for the weekend. One earns you a jerk award, the other a Darwin Award. See the difference?

Aron falls off his bike in the Film4 Film 127 Hours

Ha ha, I fell down. Let’s take a picture of me looking like I got high and tried to boink my bike!

Aron thinks a lot about his old ways and about changing his life while he’s stuck, but mostly he thinks about water. There’s a major water motif in the film. Lakes, rivers, rain, swimming pools… all because Aron is slowly dying of thirst. He has only one Nalgene bottle full of water and that’s it. In a hot, dry, place like Utah, it’ll last a few days, tops, and then he’s a goner.

Aron's water in the Film4 Film 127 Hours

Actually, Aron, even if you live the lining of your Nalgene will probably give you cancer anyway,
because this is 2003, before they knew about BPA. Sorry.

Obviously, though, Aron does make it out of his dire predicament, because otherwise he could not have written the book this movie is based on. If you want to retain any element of surprise, DO NOT look up Aron Ralston on Wikipedia. Avoid any and all synopses of the film (sometimes people give it away). In fact, don’t even look at the cover of his book, Between a Rock and a Hard Place, because that’ll ruin it too.

Aron is stuck in the Film4 Film 127 Hours

Though I will say that “Between a Rock and Another, Bigger Rock” would have been an even more literal title.

I won’t tell you how it turns out, but if you know already, don’t worry. You’ll still enjoy the film. I did, and I knew. It was very dramatic. James Franco was impressive, though not as impressive as Colin Firth in The King’s Speech (sorry, James Franco). The music is good (though not as good as Inception or Country Strong). The script is pretty well executed (doesn’t hold a candle to The Social Network, though). There are some really interesting camera shots, and a redemption/personal triumph theme that will make you rethink your life a little even if you never go near canyons at all, but it will lose best picture to The King’s Speech. I suppose it could still win editing.

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