127 Hours

127 Hours

The characters in a Danny Boyle film always find ways to beat increasing odds. From Shallow Grave and Trainspotting to 28 Days Later and Slumdog Millionaire, his protagonists rise from what is sure failure out of sheer determination and their own internal tenacity. 127 Hours, a film about the true story of adventurer Aron Ralston and his fight for survival while trapped under a boulder in the mountains of Utah, can therefore be considered the prototypical Boyle film.

Aron is played with disarming charm and wit by James Franco, whose ability to carry the entire 94 minute film almost single handedly is the real draw. Recalling the challenging work of Tom Hanks in Castaway, Franco remains engaging for viewers while being pinned to a large rock. His work is made slightly easier by Boyle’s visual energy. His kinetic camera work, always a joy to watch in the jigsaw puzzle like way it splits screens, time and memory within the film, is quite brilliant. It seems there is no place Boyle cannot take his camera and here he finds ways to show us the inside of bottles, claustrophobic canyons, video cameras tape heads and even the human flesh during key moments.

Despite all of this, 127 Hours is really Franco’s showpiece. So involving are his many failed attempts at dislodging the boulder that any close calls were greeted by audience ‘ooh’s’ and ‘aah’s’ during the screening I attended. When chipping the chunk of rock one piece as a time using a pocket knife fails, Aron tries to lift it using a pulley made from climbing rope and his own weight pushing against it. When all else fails, and with time and water supplies almost out, he is left with one last resort, and the film recreates this in sufficient detail. In this, 127 Hours can almost be considered a cinematic sibling to Kevin MacDonald documentary Touching the Void, a film it has a lot in common with, including some surreal imagery where the mind starts to play tricks when the surroundings gets cold, dark and lonely. Boyle largely avoids any cheap shots at gaining audience sympathy and the film benefits by not being manipulative in the way his Slumdog Millionaire was. In the end however, it is thanks to Franco’s dynamic performance that we can’t help but want Aron’s persistence to be rewarded with freedom, because it has been earned.

Rating: ★★★★☆


About Faizan Rashid

A veteran Dubai based film critic, Faizan has been reviewing movies for nearly a decade. His work has been published in local newspapers such as 7days and on prestigious online websites such as MSN Arabia and wearethemovies.com