127 Hours: Cute, but not too cute; horrific, but not too horrific

If you ever choose to follow my advice, please let it be now. Do not eat before seeing this film. (But see this film).

Danny Boyle’s much anticipated 127 Hours pins us to the screen much like its hero, Aron Ralston, is pinned between two rocks in the desert canyons of Utah. Actually, it really is a little like poor Aron’s real-life ordeal, in that we are stuck there, witnessing in extreme close-up the horrors of approaching starvation.

Yeah, yeah, our ordeal doesn’t involve five days of excruciating pain or amazingly gruesome feats of human endurance. I did, though, spend the climax of the film amazingly enduring my own gruesome nausea, and I look forward with pleasure to a film celebrating my strength.

I kid! I kid! I’m not trying to make fun of Aron. He did the incredible (albeit after making some stupid decisions), and screenwriter Simon Beaufoy did his story serious justice with a beautiful script that takes very little material and makes it into something entirely compelling. As Aron, the talented James Franco, brings us with the character through a range of emotions: arrogance, buoyancy, determination, regret, courage, and hope. They’re all there, and we feel them along with Aron, whose sunniness is so infectious that the sad times are that much more upsetting. I felt inspired, although I can’t say exactly what I felt inspired to do — certainly not hike around canyons or drink anything vaguely yellow in color in the near future.

But, as with Slumdog Millionaire, it was hard for me to buy into several of Boyle’s directing decisions. I know the guy is really into Bollywood (and who wouldn’t be? That stuff is 100% fun), but what happens in Bollywood should stay in Bollywood sometimes, and there are a whole lot of busy, almost cartoonishly dramatic elements that are creeping into Boyle’s films. Not that I blame him, exactly. Slumdog took home the whole enchilada at the Oscars, so why wouldn’t he incorporate a little of that glitzy feel-good style?

I don’t know. Maybe it’s a glimpse into American cinema’s future. I can think of worse things, but it is going to make things a little tougher to take seriously. For instance, the score by Bollywood composer extraordinaire, A. R. Rahman, is a little too frantic and tries a little too hard. And the dying Aron’s hallucinations cause a few eye rolls now and then. But Boyle’s transgressions into a colorful world of cheesiness aside, you’ll remember this film for a long time.

And not just because it’ll probably win a thousand Oscars.

And not just because parts of it will make you want to pass out.

Okay, maybe because of that last part.

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Susan Howson

Susan Howson is managing editor for this very website. She writes THE BEST bios.

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  1. James Franco, I love you. I love you and I will marry you.

  2. Ok…
    There’s not one way to tell that you’ve actually seen the film. No analysis on Franco’s performance, no in-depth explanation of his trials, just a blunt opinion with a few points that anyone could have gained from just watching the trailer or reading another person’s review. Next time, convince me that you’ve actually seen the movie.

    Because I have.
    And this didn’t work as a review at all.

  3. Josh – That might be because I didn’t feel that much about it. I did point out that Boyle’s directing is getting a little hokey, which to me means that a film loses its depth. It sounds to me like you were really affected by the film, which is great, and you were hoping to find a kindred spirit here, which you didn’t.

    I also feel really strongly that reviews, even from sources I highly admire, give way too much away. I’m the kind of person who likes almost everything about a film to be a surprise, not just the ending, so I try to give readers that same opportunity. You’ve seen the film, so you understand that there’s really only one thing that happens. When I set out to write the review, I was determined not to reveal that thing. But when that’s the crux of the entire movie, it gets tricky. As a result, I had to draw in the other elements that stood out to me, namely the music and the directing. The acting was spot-on, of course, because Franco rules, but again, I felt I couldn’t go into too much detail there due to spoilage constraints.

    So you’re right! It was one of my skimpier ones (although you could argue that my less skimpy ones are just way too wordy). But dude, I felt a little bit like I was uh…between a rock and a hard place?

    Thanks for reading! Hope we’re in accord next time!

  4. The film was pretty accurate with regards to the true story, including the hallucinations at the end. Ralston discusses the visions he had of the boy in the red polo (i.e. his unborn son) in his book, ‘Between a Rock and a Hard Place’ and how it gave him the strength to continue with the amputation as his time on earth was seemingly running out.

    I also think A.R. Rahman did a great job composing the music to a difficult project. The song played during the amputation and escape scene was perfect. He should be up for some well deserved awards for the soundtrack.

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