127 hours Review by Ted Baldwin
This film is an intense look at the struggle a young adventurer has when trapped in an isolated canyon. It is called a biographical film by some, but it is not about the guy, Aron Ralston, it is about what happens to him. One careless moment – and a life changing event blossoms.
James Franco, of Spiderman and Milk fame, does an excellent job portraying the real-life survivor, and the director, Danny Boyle, (Slumdog Millionaire) wrings the juiciest bits of tension from the scene, replete with agonizing moments of self mutilation, which made me think of animals gnawing off their own legs when caught in a trap. And his baser instinct comes into play as he suffers pain, dehydration, insects and overt loneliness. Insight generating situations.
As a film it succeeds, on the whole. though it certainly would succeed as a stage play too – minimal sets and the action takes place in a five foot square area. Visually arresting at times, a film companion found one shot arising from the victim’s screaming mouth to a full landscape aerial shot to be the most commanding of the film. KHAAAAAN! It does perfectly capture the essence of the situation – nowhere in every direction, with a perfectly executed crane shot that calls attention to itself because it is so perfect.
The relentlessness of the situation should at some point give way to fully examine the deeper considerations of being so perfectly screwed. He has a few moments, but license dramatica cannot fulfil its little foray here. And that by no means is a condemnation – this is a riveting picture that is believable because it is what happened. In the fifties, Billy Wilder (The Apartment, Stalag 17, Sunset Boulevard, Some Like It Hot) directed “Ace in the Hole”, about a spelunker trapped in a cave while a cynical reporter makes a big story out of him – to the detriment of the victim. That film, which I saw forty years ago or more, examined everyone around the victim but he was in fact, just a sideshow. 127 hours is more intense and not nearly as depressing.
If you are looking for some political machination in the works it seems to be relatively benign – boy meets canyon, canyon tries to kill boy, etc. Nothing controversial, except for the disclaimer at the end that bicycles are not permitted in Utah state parks or some such. Had to make sure that was in the credits. No damage to the rocks. You could make a case for this being moralizing punishment of individualism but it would not hold as much water as his puny little bike bag. Aside from a few cursewords and ammonia-laced survival techniques, there is little objectionable material – so long as blood and gore does not put you off your feed. But there is nothing gratuitous in this film, except a grateful survivor who takes away more than he leaves behind.
Everyone says expect great things from this director. I concur.
Saw it at the Canal Place theater in New Orleans – very nice. Tickets a little more expensive but it was good treat, reserved seating and we could have ordered meals, wine and other drinks from our waiter.