127 Hours (Danny Boyle, 2010)

16Jan11

James Franco (Aron Ralston). Screenplay by Simon Beaufoy and Danny Boyle. Directed by Danny Boyle. Rating: 15. Running time: 94 minutes.

Does Danny Boyle take pride in consistently making damn good films out of the most banal cinematic material imaginable? He should do. That’s not to say that the story of Aron Ralston – an American rock climber who got his arm trapped under a falling boulder and only escaped by hacking it off with a penknife – isn’t bloody amazing (though it is to say that the fictional story of an Indian who wins Who Wants To Be A Millionaire is on a prima facie level pretty crap). What I mean is that the idea of a man alone and stuck, driving himself delirious as he strives for survival, is far from something that sounds perfect as the substance of a high-tempo film. And yet 127 Hours in fact only lasts 90 minutes, and every single one of them is enthralling. From the opening scenes in which we soak up the Utah landscape to the sound of rock and roll and footage of Franco’s rapid cycling, to those gut wrenching shots of a man intentionally trying to break his arm so he doesn’t have to chisel through the bone – the tempo here is always fast, and the feeling is both frightening and somehow cool. If you’re going to try and tell a story like this as a film, few will argue that this is the way to do it. Boyle, and indeed Franco, get the balance between hopeless fear and survival instinct, cries of pain and roars of frustration, spot on, rightly leaving us firmly in awe rather than tears. If it somehow doesn’t affect you that way, then 127 Hours will, at least, no doubt leave you exercising and cherishing your eternally precious hands.

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