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After Slumdog Millionaire, I had zero faith in Danny Boyle.
Even though he had directed Trainspotting and 28 Days Later, I just could not shake the awful feeling that his career was on a downturn towards sloppy, sentimental works–and I’m also pretty sure I’m the only person who didn’t like it.
With 127 Hours, though, everything I liked about him previously is in full effect. He does really well when directing stories of various types of amplified peril, be it a heroine addiction, a zombie invasion, or, now, a man trapped quite literally trapped between a rock and a hard place.
He infuses the story with a certain, MTV-edged, energy in such a way that it never feels like watching Cribs even though many of the techniques are ostensibly the same.
Instead, it heightens everything about the film in the way that it’s intended to. Maybe just due to the nature of the work it doesn’t feel hokey–because when you’re doing flashy jump cuts about a Bentley it doesn’t quite have the same effect as flashy jump cuts around a dude stuck in a canyon.
Wasn’t it Kinda Boring Knowing that…
This film acknowledges that, yea, you probably already know how this ends–and, if you didn’t, spoiler-alerts don’t really exist for a movie based on a news event that happened only seven years ago–and that you might get bored if that scene you’d heard so much about doesn’t happen soon.
So instead of making it a completely isolated story, with just James Franco and his thoughts, Boyle decides to show the memories that Ralston has, the ones that he’s letting flash before his eyes as the life slowly drains out of him. This keeps things fresh and interesting and helps us to care more about this person once the inevitable happens.
Freaks and Geeks and Legitimate Talent
This has to be one of the highlights of James Franco’s career thus far.
Even in his comedic roles, he’s always seemed to bring a little bit more than he needs to. The characters he create have more depth than they need to. Even in Pineapple Express, you couldn’t help but sympathize with the drug dealer who cares for his grandma.
Here, though, everything he knows is in full effect. There are scenes where he is so deep into the character’s agonizing pain that he is hardly recognizable. He knows exactly what he’s doing, and he knows just how to convey this character. There’s a confidence on display here that is very refreshing to see.
This movie surprised the hell out of me with how well done it was. It’s a testament to the pacing to say that this movie felt a lot shorter than its 2-hour running time in spite of it being in a cave 97% of the time. This is a movie that stays with you long after the credits roll.
Spoiler-heavy (?) Corollary
I was stuffed into a crowded theater and everyone was squirming with anticipation and curiosity for the moment when he loses his arm.
It was really interesting to hear the thoughts of these people every time something would make the event seem close to occurring. Every time the angle showed his arm while he had a knife in his hand, the people surrounding me squirmed and readied themselves. The girl next to me admitted that she couldn’t take any of the experience and had her eyes closed for most of the film.
And, yes, the scene is incredibly graphic. I seldom have to turn away from the screen, but this film definitely forced me to. When graphic violence and character development are mixed, it’s a lot harder for me to watch someone suffer through the worst pain of their life.