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127 hours

USA 2011
Directed by
Danny Boyle
94 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Andrew Lee
4 stars

127 Hours

Synopsis:Aron Ralston (James Franco) gets his arm trapped under a rock while climbing through the canyons of Utah. Alone and with limited resources, he reflects on the choices that have brought him to this point, while steeling himself for an extreme form of escape.

Danny Boyle has an uncanny knack for fusing a pop sensibility with realist storytelling. Trainspotting and Slumdog Millionaire could never be accused of being strictly realistic, but they touch on reality in ways that are more arresting than the usual kitchen sink drama. It’s no different here, and Boyle’s inventive visuals play an interesting counterpoint to the blunt nature of the situation. A man has fallen into a crevasse, his arm pinned to the wall by a giant rock, and he’s unable to free himself. It sounds like ninety minutes of watching a guy scream for help, but in Boyle’s hands it becomes a surreal and intriguing story about a selfish and self-assured man coming to grips with his mortality and his venality.

James Franco deserves all the plaudits he is receiving for this role. Aron, at least as depicted in the movie, is a likeable guy, but not one you’d necessarily trust to come through for you. He’s fickle, doesn’t answer the phone when his mum rings, ignores his girlfriend until she leaves him, and all up tends to live inside a bubble of what he wants to do and the world be damned. The most telling comment comes early in the film, after he leaves two hikers he shows around the canyons. They invite him to join them at a party later on, but as he leaves one asks the other if it’s likely he’ll show up. “I don’t think we even figured in his day” the other replies. And it’s true, he wasn’t so much interested in helping them as he was in showing off how well he knew the place. And even when trapped, he initially doesn’t seem particularly fazed. That’s probably shock, but it’s interesting to watch his self-obsession as he videotapes himself, documenting his predicament. But slowly this gives way to self-realisation, as he berates himself, in a mock television interview, for not telling anyone where he was going. And as he faces up to his past mistakes, the things that could mean he dies alone and unknown, his will to live grows until he’s willing to do anything to survive.

It’s said that crisis doesn’t create character, it reveals it. 127 Hours is a superb piece of pop entertainment illuminating this thesis. Without shouting it at you, Danny Boyle has once more successfully blended his off-kilter storytelling style to a tangential exploration of more serious ideas. More impressionistic than story-driven, it’s a totally engrossing ninety minutes that will leave you gently pondering both the worth and meaning of life.




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