Monday, November 8, 2010

127 Hours Movie Review

James Franco stars in 127 Hours

127 Hours of Sheer Entertainment

In early January, DC Film Review will announce the winners of its first ever Teacher’s Pet awards (a poor man’s Oscar for sure.) There’s still more than six weeks to go, but we have a winner for Best Actor... James Franco earns the inaugural Red Apple for his amazing performance as Aron Ralston in Danny Boyle’s thrilling 127 Hours. It’s hard to imagine Boyle or the film itself not joining him on the winner’s podium: This is easily one of the best films of the year.

As a reviewer, I feel spoiled... I was treated to two of the year’s best flicks (127 Hours and The Next Three Days) within days of each other... On the heels of Due Date and Saw 3D, that’s saying something. In the case of 127 Hours, the only negative is that it wasn’t long enough. From its fast paced opening (PLEASE find that Swiss Army knife) to its climatic conclusion, 127 Hours packs quite a punch. It’s based on the real-life story of Ralston, who was trapped by a boulder inside a remote (and isolated) Utah canyon for five days. Five days!

Having read the true story, I knew the end result going into the theater (Don’t worry, no spoilers) but that knowledge didn’t prevent me from getting caught up entirely with Ralston’s experience. Ralston, a thrill-seeking mechanical engineer, sets out for a solo expedition through Blue John Canyon... grabbing the basic equipment and nourishment needed for a day’s worth of excitement... If only he knew. When he arrives, he sets out on his mountain bike to a remote part of the canyon where he continues on foot until he encounters two fellow hikers (lost and in need of a helpful guide.)

It doesn’t hurt that the two needy souls are young and attractive women (Kate Mara and Amber Tamblyn) and the pair agree to Ralston’s invitation to show them around. He takes them (out of the way) to a secret water spot where the trio get to have fun and get to know each other. They split up, agreeing to meet again at a party thrown by the girls the next day. Ralston continues on his adventure by himself. So far, a pretty good day.

Minutes later, Ralston loses his footing and finds himself trapped inside a canyon, his arm crushed under a fallen boulder. Ralston is remarkably calm and quickly takes inventory of the situation. It’s this calm that sets 127 Hours apart from other films. Ralston’s demeanor sets the tone for the rest of the film... You’re not buried alive with Ryan Reynolds (Buried)... You’re on an adventure of sorts. Thank goodness. And what an adventure it is.

Ralston goes about trying to escape. With limited rations, he stares death right in the face and doesn’t blink. This guy is really clever; Almost MacGyver-like. Of course, being an engineer doesn’t hurt. Still, you feel confident that if anyone could make it out of this canyon, it’s Ralston. For the next five days (they fly by, trust me) Ralston takes turns recording his thoughts onto his camcorder and trying to pry his arm free with a poorly-made (dull) blade. He encounters all sorts of problems, and passes the time by looking back (and forward) on his life. There are lots of messages in 127 Hours and the benefits & downfalls of living alone, top the list.

Boyle’s direction is near-perfect as is the entire work of art we get to experience for 95 minutes. As for Franco, I think I’ve said enough already. A rare combination of action, humor and suspense... 127 Hours is time well spent.

Grade: A