Wednesday, August 31, 2011

127 HOURS (2010)

Until 2009, British director Danny Boyle had made quite a name for himself directing good movies like Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, and one of my favorite sci-fi films, Sunshine. It was that year though, that made Danny Boyle blow up in fame since his little movie about Indian kids jumping around in poop puddles and becoming game show contestants hit the big time at the Oscars. Slumdog Millionaire. Remember? You might have heard of it. In any case, Boyle is known for his intense, hectic approach to films and there is always a raw, vibrant nature attached to whatever subject he takes on. Which is good news for 127 Hours, since it tells the story of a guy who gets trapped by a boulder, and cuts his damn arm off. Sounds intense to me, but hey, I live in the suburbs. Your mileage may vary.

Aron Ralston (James Franco) is a 28-year old mountain climber who lives as if he's got hardly a care in the world. Armed with his mountain bike, hiking gear, some water and a bit of food he sets out to explore the remote Blue John Canyon in Colorado. Something about the fact that Aron neglects to tell any of his friends or family where he's going tells you he's a bit of an idiot. You can just smell trouble coming his way. He arrives at the canyon, and comes across two girls (played by Kate Mara and Amber Tamblyn), who are apparently lost, and Aron being the helpful  carefree guy that he is, offers to be their guide for a bit. Together they do a bit of spelunking, leading up to a great scene inside a huge pool inside a cave. The girls are amused with Aron, but have their suspicions that he might just be insane. I'd agree with them.

 After taking a few Myspace pictures  (or whatever you kids are using these days) with the chicks, they invite him to their party later that night. Aron says he'll drop by and check it out, and goes off on his own, waving goodbye and as usual, not telling them where he's off to. Flash forward a couple minutes, and Aron is made to pay for being such a colossal dumbasss. He looses his footing while climbing across a rock fracture, falls, and while trying to save himself, grabs onto a huge rock which ends up falling and smashing his right arm. Pinned to the canyon wall by this hulking boulder, running low on water, and with no means of escape. Aron tries to chip away at the rock with his cheap knife to no avail; that damn rock isn't going nowhere and he knows it.

Nothing I could say about the movie or no amount of screenshots would be accurate enough to describe what a marvelous movie this is. Danny Boyle pulls no punches with his film making. His camera moves in ways you wouldn't expect, he uses light and color inventively and creates a fantastic sense of tension and claustrophobia in the canyon scenes. To keep a viewer's interest with such a limited subject is no small feat. By the time Aron makes the ballsy decision to amputate his own arm with a dull pocketknife, you've been in the canyon with him. (A word for the squeamish: the part where he cuts off his arm is gnarly. Tendons, bone, muscle, nerves, all shown pretty graphically.) We have a front row seat to witness the deterioration of mind and body to the point that he can barely deal with his situation. What's there to say about Franco? He pulls off the performance of a lifetime. Completely disappears into his role and does the hard job of making you feel empathic towards a guy who has no one to blame for his trouble but himself. The indomitable will to live that he starts to develop near the end of the movie is just great. Thrilling, thrilling stuff.

127 Hours is one of the best movies of the year. It's equal parts adventure, action movie, drama and thriller. Danny Boyle has pulled another masterpiece out of his bag of tricks, and James Franco finally puts his acting chops to good use in a fantastic role. Don't miss it.

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