Without having seen most of the films among those Oscar frontrunners (True Grit, The King’s Speech, Black Swan, etc.) 127 Hours is the movie of the year at the moment. If we can expect this level of moviemaking from the rest of the films, then this year could turn out a decent one for movies. I realized that 127 Hours had potential to be one of the best this year, but wasn’t at all looking forward to seeing it. The idea of impending doom can be too much for me. Movies that center around one torturing idea can very easily become over-exploitative as far as I’m concerned.
127 Hours is the film adaptation of the autobiography of Aron Ralston called, “Between a Rock and a Hard Place”, documenting Ralston’s mountain climbing expedition in which he was trapped for over five days when I boulder fell on his arm.
Boyle doesn’t exploit the fact that Ralston is trapped. In fact, he very tastefully adds his style that makes the film both enjoyable to watch and relatable for the audience. We don’t just see a guy stuck for 5 days. We get to know him. We become him. Danny Boyle directs the film without necessarily harping on the idea that a person is trapped under a boulder. He doesn’t take the easy route and shock us with the literal details that so many other directors would. There’s no unnecessary suspense stemming from the fact that Ralston is stuck. That would be too easy. Boyle takes us inside Ralston’s mind. We know the thoughts that he keeps going over (if he had only grabbed that last Gatorade bottle of out the truck) and the songs that get stuck in his head (Scooby Doo). In as true a way as possible, the audience almost feels the pain (at least mentally) and despair that Ralston is going through. It is Boyle’s genius in directing that makes this film as great as it is. I thoroughly enjoyed it even though I knew eventually what was coming. Instead of making a bloody and gory amputation scene reminiscent of so many horror films, Boyle preps the audience so that the inevitable decision becomes a final road to freedom. It is a necessary sacrifice in order to live. Expect to see a Directing nomination for Boyle.
James Franco plays Ralston and should not only receive a best actor nomination, but as far as I’m concerned (and I haven’t seen Firth in The King’s Speech) should win the Oscar outright.
Boyle and Simon Beaufoy adapt the book to screen, A. R. Rahman returns to compose this very unorthodox (much like Slumdog) score as does cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle. All of these individuals won an Oscar for Slumdog Millionaire in 2008 for their categories and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see every single one nominated.
Danny Boyle has always been a good director. As for me, 127 Hours takes me to a completely new level of Boyle-appreciation. He goes right up there on the list of directors of whom I await year after year for their next film like: Paul Thomas Anderson, Martin Scorsese, Tarantino, The Coens, the recently added Joe Wright and Darren Aronofsky and until recently removed, Clint Eastwood.
127 Hours **** out of ****