Directed by: Danny Boyle
Written by: Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy
Company: Fox Searchlight Pictures / Pathe
Runtime: 94 minutes
127 Hours is one of the only few Best Picture nominees that is almost a one-man show.
The film is about Aron Ralston, a happy-go-lucky and adventurous mountaineer that goes for hiking in the Grand Canyon by himself. In his climbing, a rock suddenly caused his right arm to be stuck, alienating him from the civilization. He tries everything to get his arm removed from the rock, but the horrifying truth strikes him, making him decide to do the unimaginable for him to get out of the boulder.
The direction intentionally overdoes it, and it actually fits the story because the main character himself is undergoing the slow destruction of his sanity. It is the kind of energetic direction that the story demands, and even though I appreciate more its use in Boyle’s last outing, the Best Picture winner Slumdog Millionaire, it still is the appropriate style of filmmaking for this film. Also, it is the energy that keeps the film from the storytelling lull that it really could have been if basing on the real event alone. Luckily, the signature style of Danny Boyle, the energetic style, was employed in this film and the result is a satisfying movie experience.
The screenplay is quite accomplished in its ways to keep the story going. I myself have questioned the possible showiness of the screenplay before watching it, knowing that for almost 90% of the film, you can only see one character deal with things or remember some events in his life, but they are all added with the texture of bring close to reality that I definitely need to mention the screenplay for that. There are no big monologues or some fiery exchange of dialogue with the other characters because there are barely any other characters in the film, but instead, the screenplay invests on the specificity of the reality of being there.
The cinematography used vivid colors, mostly of orange and red shade, to further implement the feel of being in the actual place. Maybe, for some, that decision to do that distracts the film, but it suits really fine with me for it was able to mix the earthy feeling that the place has and the hallucinatory vision that the main character has. Also, there is the effective usage of the camera movements and angles to define the psychology of the character in a one very moment. Sometimes, it goes for the shaky camera, and sometimes, it goes very formally, like that epic shot where we ses Aron stuck in the boulder, shouting for help, and as the camera continuously pulls back, you can see how isolated he is. Powerful, powerful work.
The editing, aside from the direction, is the showiest part of the film. There is continuous flow of shots that build each scene with the packed energy that the film contains very much so throughout its whole course. It uses a lot of split-screen, which I am not really that fond of, but I don’t know what happened but it served the story so well. Anyway, the editing also knows when to show it all in terms of being showy, and it also knows when to tone down and let Franco to just breathe in the character with the help of the screenplay. Job well done, by the way.
The music in this film feels a bit unpolished for me. There are times when I think it could have been better, even though it actually already does a fine job in one scene, and there are also times when I know it cannot be better anymore. Still, it feels unfinished and slightly amateurish. The pre-existing songs are well-chosen, giving the dynamic atmosphere in some scenes. The film’s theme song, “If I Rise,” is a song that I did not like in my first listening to it, thinking that it is just boring and does not have a climactic build-up on it. However, upon listening to it again, I was already able to get the soul of the song, and the slow start is actually a very nice way to build it up to the peak of the song with that chorus chanting words that are so well-written.
The art direction, I get to appreciate just recently. I just found out that they did the majority of the scenes in a soundstage, and the rock boulder where he was stuck is just a replica of the real place. The job these people have done in recreating the place is simply fantastic.
This is definitely a one-man show, and man, what a show!
James Franco embodies the character so well, internalizing the character in every scene he is in. I feel that he does his scenes with simplicity and smoothness in it that it reaches to a point that it is already so effortless and authentic. But let me say this right now – I was not overwhelmingly blown away by his performance. I can feel the character in him, but even if there are a lot of acting challenges in it, I think he somehow made it seem too easy for him. Sure, he does justice to the character in the most possible way, but it is also, unfortunately, in his fault, that he embodies the character so much that it feels a bit easy for me. I don’t know. Maybe because the performance gets too internal that the showy bits of it just gets overshadowed.
But anyway, that is just a very, very small issue that I have in his performance. The rest of what I can say is simply good things. He knows where the camera is, but does not make you feel that he’s acting it just for the camera. It is just the alertness and knowledge of Franco that delivers a lot of his actions the focus that it needs for us to see the turmoil in him. Very, very, very, very well-done job.
Truth be told, I don’t love this film 100% because of some emotional connection problems, but this is superb cinema. It uplifts the spirit and it makes you value life and relationships much more. It’s a story of survival that must be seen, and to just mention, the self-amputation is not that bad, by the way, so don’t make it stop you from watching this. I know repeated viewing would make this film grow in me, but as for now, I am more comfortable with the grade I am going to give this.
For this, the movie gets:
Agree? Or disagree?