Thursday, January 13, 2011

127 Hours (2010)

By Eric Jessen 1/13/2011

Might it have been a ground breaking film or a snuff nightmare? The showiness and overly beautified style of Danny Boyle's last film Slumdog Millionaire, cut and structured for the reality TV viewer with a short attention span, bleeds through in Boyle's new film 127 Hours. But what made Slumdog a two hour music video and poverty merely a road block for teen love doesn't overshadow the inherent messages in Aron Ralston's unbelievable story.
Who hasn't met a Ralston once in their life? He eats protein bars, drinks gatorade and gets high on testosterone and exhilaration. But this is the story of young exuberance being literally brought down to earth. The strength of Boyle's film is in showing how Ralston, played exceptionally well by James Franco (which will certainly earn him a best actor nomination), must come to terms with profound loneliness, and perhaps learn the idiocy and selfishness of his careless attitude, boasting to para-skying-bungee-mountain-biking friends about dances with death at the expense of his loved ones.
The issue with 127 Hours is Boyle's need to force the redemptive value of Ralston's experience in place of brutal honesty. Ultimately in showing Ralston's realization that he needs companionship to survive the movie screams Humanity too loud. The flashbacks of Ralston's shining moments in life feel too much like Kodak moments. The music by A. R. Rahman (who worked with Boyle on Slumdog) often feels too cute, as well as clips of old commercials for Juicy Fruit and Gatorade. The inevitable dismemberment scene which looms over the entire film is the only time Boyle truly challenges the audience and forces it to endure the horror of Ralston's experience. It is also the only time the cloud of Boyle's grinning technique is lifted.
A film portraying the nihilism and cruelty of the world was possible here. But not in the stomach of Danny Boyle. And perhaps for the better. The realities of Ralston's experience as well as the hardships of the world may be too unbearable to stand. The sensationalism of violence and perversion in film will never be as unwatchable as the truth.

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