127 Hours

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By Greg Elperin

Once again, Danny Boyle surprises viewers with a movie that’s nothing like his last. After a long line of unique, stylish, and compelling films like Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, and Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours proves to be another unique and compelling entry to Boyle’s resume with the minor flaw of being too stylish for its own good.

This movie tells the (more or less) true story of Aron Ralson, a mountain climber who gets pinned under a boulder for just over five days and takes desperate measures to survive.

127 Hours starts off surprisingly lighthearted, featuring plenty of laughs, sleek visuals, and a powerful, attention-grabbing soundtrack. While these elements are great on their own, some of them feel overdone and don’t fit in the context of the movie.

One such example can be found in the film’s shots of a busy city in split-screen, set to loud techno music. This short scene undoubtedly looked and sounded great, but it served no purpose aside from showing off Boyle’s skill with visuals and sound. They’d be great in an action movie or an Ocean’s Eleven-style heist, but in a movie about survival and human drama, they feel as out of place as a song and dance number.

Fortunately, when the movie cuts down on technical gimmicks, it delivers a first-rate survival story with an emotional punch that only a handful of recent movies can claim to match. This is mostly due to James Franco’s superb acting and some stellar camera-work.

Franco’s performance feels absolutely spot-on, capturing every side of his troubled character with a keen eye for dark humor. Ralson is an easy character to sympathize with, which only makes the realistic portrayal of his suffering that much harder to endure. The only times the movie seems to lose momentum are when the focus shifts from the here and now of Ralson’s predicament to flashbacks and scenes that happen entirely in his imagination.

The second star of the movie is the cinematography. For a film that spends so much of its run time trapped in such a small space, the variety and artistry of the camera-work is spectacular. It also helps that a tight script makes all of the seemingly mundane details of survival so intriguing.

Aside from a little over-indulgence and a few scenes that go nowhere, 127 Hours is another knockout for Danny Boyle and a sign of big things to come for James Franco. I dare you to watch this movie and not wonder on the deepest gut level if you have what it takes to do what Ralson did to survive.

127 Hours

R ★★★★☆
Showing: Bowtie Theater
Starring: James Franco, Amber Tamblyn, and Kate Mara

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