Starring James Franco. Rated 14A. Opens Friday, November 19, at the Fifth Avenue Cinemas
Taken best as a hyperkinetic examination of life’s limits and its potential, 127 Hours recalls (in 94 minutes) the true story of Aron Ralston’s worst camping trip.
James Franco plays Ralston, a gutsy, heedless young Colorado adventurer who, in 2003, spent more than five days pinned by a boulder (or Between a Rock and a Hard Place, as his memoir was titled) in a remote fissure of Utah’s Canyonlands Park, where dinosaurs still roam.
Watch the trailer for 127 Hours.
If you’ve heard horror stories about the film’s toughest scenes, you might expect the experience to be something like war: long stretches of tedium shattered by moments of throwing up. But it’s more like MTV circa 1989: a nonstop visual and aural assault accompanied by the occasional reminder of one’s own tenuous existence in such a strange and unforgiving world (vomit optional). If these analogies seem overblown, remember that the chief visionary here is Danny Boyle, who directed such subtle meditations as Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, and Slumdog Millionaire.
Boyle still has Bollywood fever, apparently. Alongside his Slumdog screenwriter, composer, and production designer, he also imports his last film’s kaleidoscopic storytelling approach. We get flashbacks, sure, but not in the insipidly conjectural style of the similarly themed Into the Wild. Scenes of childhood, first love, and serious beer-chugging—all sports are extreme to this loose-limbed loner—are mixed with dreams, ephemeral thoughts, and video-camera monologues. Thanks to Ralston’s obsessive self-documenting, Franco gets to stamp this scattershot movie with the kind of personal authority that makes you care what happens.
There are also some spiffy pop-culture collages at no extra charge. In fact, 127 Hours is the only film I’ve seen in which just thinking about your favourite soda-pop ads can help save your life. By the way, you should always carry a bottle opener.