Written by Films

127 Hours

A new Danny Boyle film is always something to get excited about. 127 Hours closed the recent London Film Festival, and is Boyle’s first since he hit the serious bigtime with Slumdog Millionaire.
It tells the true story of Aron Ralston (warning: spoilers), an adrenaline junkie who careers around the wilds of Utah without a care in the world, canyoning, climbing and mountain biking. Then, one day, he slips up and gets him arm trapped under boulder down a thin gulley. He’s in the middle of nowhere, and essentially nobody knows that he’s there.
In some respects this is an incredibly claustrophobic film, with vast sections of it set in that canyon where he can’t move, has limited food and water, and only his video camera to keep him company. But in fact that’s not the case, and as much as anything that’s down to Boyle and his cinematography team.
The film opens with an incredibly kinetic sequence, which rivals those of Trainspotters or Slumdog. Set against a thumping soundtrack, Ralston (the excellent James Franco) bursts out of his van on his mountain bike. You get a good feeling for this in the trailer.
It’s important that we understand that Ralston loves life, because otherwise he could be considered incredibly selfish. I know that the first time I saw the trailer, I did wonder about his character. But in the film, he realises that he’s just a bit too free-wheeling and is a genuinely nice guy.
Once he’s trapped, Boyle’s really clever stuff begins. The dynamism doesn’t stop and clearly some very clever technology and tiny digital cameras have been used without causing any quality issues. When this film comes out on DVD, I’m really going to want to see a decent “making of” feature. The fast cutting technique, and using micro-cameras in his water bottle and Camelbak tube mean that there is always something to be looking at.
There’s also a degree of flashback involved, although in a non-traditional sense. In any event, the 94 minutes fly by despite so much of the film taking place in one location.
The other difficulty is that essentially you know the outcome of this film before you go in. The plot can be summarised in a single line, and the duration is right there in the titles. So we know what he does, and we know how long it takes him to get there. It’s the consummate skill of Boyle and co-writer Simon Beaufoy, that keeps you involved.
James Franco is great as the essentially very smart and level-headed Ralston. He doesn’t panic so much as logically consider all his steps and moves. And when the fear begins to overwhelm him he still remains pretty calm. Franco does carry this film by himself. There are other characters, like the two girls he meets and guides briefly towards the start of his excursion, his parents and girlfriend in flashback. But it’s really all about Ralston.
The special effects are excellent – including the ones you’re thinking about. Is the film for the squeamish? Probably not, but it’s not a horror film either.
The cinematography of Enrique Chediak and Anthony Dod Mantle must be acknowledged, and Boyle brings A.R. Rahman who he first used in Slumdog, to create the exceptional soundtrack.
In summary, this is unmissable!
By the way, the film is one big advert for the beauty of Utah. It makes you want to pack your bags and head there straight away (something that the current cold spell does nothing to stop), even if you take things a little bit slower when you get there.
I attended a bloggers’ screening of this film which I was delighted to attend because I was so looking forward to this film. You can follow the film on Twitter, and the film’s Facebook page is here.It’s out on 5 January 2011.