Review: 127 Hours (2010)

127 Hours (2010)

Directed by: Danny Boyle | 95 minutes | drama, thriller, adventure, biography | Actors: James Franco, Kate Mara, Amber Tamblyn, Sean Bott, Koleman Stinger, Treat Williams, John Lawrence, Kate Burton, Bailee Michelle Johnson, Rebecca C. Olson, Parker Hadley, Clémence Poésy, Fenton Quinn, Lizzy Caplan, Peter Joshua Hull Pieter Jan Brugge, Jeffrey Wood, Norman Lehnert, Xmas Lutu, Terry S. Mercer, Darin Southam, Robert Bear, Tye Nelson, Luke Drake, Lonzo Liggins, Kyle Paul

English director Danny Boyle is already a veteran when he picks up eight Oscars in 2008 for his Indian adventure drama ‘Slumdog Millionaire’. Before that triumph, he has had success with films as diverse as ‘Shallow Grave’, ‘Trainspotting’ and ‘The Beach’. Perhaps it’s because of that previous success that Boyle just keeps going his own way after that wagon load of Oscars. Slumdog Millionaire’s sequel is not an exotic adventure or other grand story, but a film about a man who is imprisoned for 127 hours. Literal.

It must have been a hell of a job for Boyle and fellow screenwriter Simon Beaufoy to turn such a static fact into a fascinating whole. That they succeed gloriously is mainly due to the cinematic genius Boyle. In ‘127 Hours’ he pulls open the entire cinematographic bag of tricks: split screens, hyper-fast editing, brightly lit visions, sound effect upon sound effect, improbable perspectives and so on. That cinematographic bravado always serves the higher purpose: the representation of the inner world of a man who has been imprisoned for 127 hours.

More than a suspenseful film about a stuck climber, ‘127 Hours’ is a treatise on the beauty of life, the value of love and family ties, and man’s unlikely survival instinct. For Aron Ralston, the 127 hours of imprisonment is a time of self-insight and purification. All this is hardly explained, only imagined: intimacy in a snow storm, a home-made video of parents and sister, the sun that warms and illuminates for fifteen minutes. And of course that gigantic Scooby Doo, a luminous beacon that appears and disappears again.

Alongside Boyle and Beaufort, actor James Franco is responsible for the emotional rollercoaster ride that has become “127 Hours.” Because the film revolves exclusively around the stalled Ralston, the young actor carries the film from start to finish. Franco covers a wide range of emotions, from bold joy to despair, anger, regret and surrender. His subtle playing ensures identification with Ralston, so that the film also becomes a war of attrition for the viewer.

After watching ‘127 Hours’ you will ask yourself one thing: how come the adrenaline rushes through your body when you have watched a man who has not moved for an hour and a half? Only a master filmmaker knows the answer. Danny Boyle is a master, ‘127 Hours’ a masterpiece.

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