james debate
james debate

Wednesday 24 November 2010

Directed by Danny Boyle
Written by Simon Beaufoy, Danny Boyle
Starring James Franco
Release date(s) Out Now
Running time 95 minutes

How do you follow up a universally acclaimed movie like Slumdog Millionaire? Danny Boyle's previous film came out of nowhere on a shoestring budget and ended up sweeping eight Oscars and grossing $400 million, earning the kind of plaudits reserved only for the very finest in cinema history. His latest, 127 Hours, comes amid a fury of hype and faces a seemingly impossible burden of expectation.

127 hours

More seasoned cinema-goers will remember that Danny Boyle himself did not just come out of nowhere, but is backed up with a history of fine work from Trainspotting to 28 Days Later. Slumdog marked a new apex for him as the most emphatically joyful of his films, a level of enthusiasm that did not go unappreciated by audiences who ensured that it would become the most successful entry on his cv.

On first glance, the concept of 127 hours seemed like a radical departure from his milieu, based on the true story of a mountain-climbing adventure gone awry which culminates in self amputation in order to survive. It's not the most pleasant subject, the sort of dilemma that inspires nightmares in some along the same lines of spiders or being buried alive (both of which, funnily enough, have also been made into movies this year), yet it is compulsive watching and Danny Boyle pulls of something of a miracle here by turning a superficially unworkable project into something of an emotional tour de force.

This is a film which will test you and ultimately break you before the end credits roll. Yet somehow Boyle manages to keep it entertaining and at times even funny, taking such a horrific story and focus on the positive elements; the strength of human spirit, the triumph against overwhelming odds and adversity. Ultimately these trials pay off with what is arguably his finest ending to a film yet. Danny Boyle at his euphoric best.

This is pretty much what I expected of this film, but what I didn't expect was James Franco giving the performance of a lifetime as Aron Ralston. Franco is on screen for what seems like the entire movie, and usually he is by himself carrying the onscreen success on his shoulders. And carry it he does, convincingly portraying the highs and lows of Ralston's cocky thrill seeker. He could well see an Oscar nom this year.

We've all read the stories about people fainting during advance screenings of this film during some of the more intense scenes, and indeed I can't help but wonder how much of that is real and how much is clever marketing. I personally did not find myself wincing too much at the action, but then I saw far worse in med school. Still this is something you'll want to think about before you step into the screening room.

Ultimately Danny Boyle pulls off another treat, an emotional roller coaster with typically infallible production and a memorable performance.

Typical Danny Boyle excellence
James Franco and the performance of his life
The ending

Not for the faint of heart

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