Danny Boyle’s follow up to the Academy Award-winning Slumdog Millionaire is about as ambitious as any of his other films. It is an adaptation of Aron Ralston’s autobiographical account of his ordeal of being trapped beneath a boulder and his eventual arm amputation in order to break free. Not many film producers would think that such a premise would work as a film. After all, how entertaining can it be to watch a man stuck in the same spot for almost an entire movie? That certainly did not stop Boyle, who had this project in his mind for more than four years.
127 Hours begins like the majority of his other directorial efforts, with an energetic opening sequence akin to a music video with a narrative. Aron, played by the talented James Franco, sets off on a hiking & climbing trek to Utah. Once he arrives, the film plays out like an exquisitely photographed tourist commercial for the REI demographic gone wrong. Eye-candy enhances this imaginary advertisement when Aron has a chance meeting with two women played by Kate Mara and Amber Tamblyn. He woos them with his local knowledge and expertise, leaving them wholly impressed. Setting off on his own again, Aron soon has his fateful meeting with his earthly nemesis.
Most of these true life accounts of overcoming environmental adversity often run the risk of becoming too cheesy by the second half of the film, the act when the troubled party starts to make positive progress and the epic music builds up. Due to Danny Boyle’s solid directorial resume, I had reason to feel optimistic that he would churn out something more intellectually engaging. If 127 Hours had more Hollywood support, those L.A. producers would have insisted that Boyle give the rock its own personality, perhaps even go as far as having a voiceover (by Dwayne Johnson if you like), taunting Franco mercilessly. Yes, the rock would be very much like the volleyball in Castaway, except in 127 Hours it’s a very evil and well-placed rock. It’s quite surprising how small the rock actually is, underscoring the unpredictable hazards of rock climbing.
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(This review was based off an early complementary screening of the film provided by Fox Searchlight.)
Director: Danny Boyle
Studio: Cloud Eight, Decibel Films, Darlow Smithson Productions
Released: Continued nationwide expansion throughout November and December