Friday, 11 March 2011
127 Hours (Second Look)
Starring: James Franco, Amber Tamblyn, Kate Mara
By Alan Bacchus
Looking at this picture for the second time, its strengths remain the same; however, the flaws seem amplified. It’s not an altogether masterpiece, but a commendable and slightly cumbersome ‘experimental’ film from Danny Boyle.
OK, we all know the story... Aron Ralston, a foolhardy independent hiker, embarks on a solo hike into the canyons of Utah where he trips, falls and gets his arm stuck between a rock and the wall of the canyon. After three days and with no other options, he commits an astonishingly gutsy and resourceful act of self-surgery to free himself.
Where the film succeeds, which I pointed out in my first TIFF review, is Danny Boyle’s ability to maintain a level of suspense despite the fact that the outcome of the story is already known. He does this by executing his electric visual style and fantastic ear for music.
Unfortunately, the shortcomings in the first act burden the film even more the second time ‘round. Boyle’s attempts to create an enlivened pace in the opening scene to jumpstart the film, which has been one of his modi operandi throughout his career (see opening chase sequences in Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire, etc.), feels forced and unnatural compared to the inherent pace of the story. The split-screen effect showing masses of people moving around and playing sports would seem to imply some kind of metaphor for Aron’s life, which never really emerges substantially. I imagine it’s supposed to present Aron’s frenetic lifestyle, but it feels like too much of a reach for Boyle to create action where there is none.
The bombardment of visual stimuli Boyle throws at us provides terrific eye candy and complements the film’s unique point of view. However, he never goes deep under the surface of Ralston’s predicament. In particular, the earth-shattering instantaneous acknowledgement of what Ralston needs to do to himself in order to escape seems sudden. Like all of Boyle’s movies, 127 Hours is pure visual and aural stimulation but lacks psychologically.
That said, once Ralston starts taking that dull knife to his forearm in the third act, we’re into another movie – an ‘action set piece’ of astonishing emotional power. The grotesque realism of the surgery is wholly necessary, leading us to the powerful flight to safety powered by the awesome music of Sigur Ros. Despite the reservations I have about the first two acts, the third act still makes the hairs on my arms stand on end, not to mention the shivers down my spine and the lump in my throat it produces. And in the big picture, 127 Hours remains a commendable and enviable addition to Danny Boyle’s body of work.
127 Hours is available on Blu-ray from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment