127 Hours [Blu-Ray]
Director : Danny Boyle
Screenplay : Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy (based on the book Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Aron Ralston)
MPAA Rating : R
Year of Release : 2010
Stars : James Franco (Aron Ralston), Amber Tamblyn (Megan), Kate Mara (Kristi), Clémence Poésy (Rana), John Lawrence (Brion), Treat Williams (Aron’s Dad), Kate Burton (Aron’s Mom), Sean A. Bott (Aron’s Friend), Koleman Stinger (Aron Age 5), Bailee Michelle Johnson (Sonja Age 10), Rebecca Olson (Monique Meijer), Parker Hadley (Aron Age 15), Fenton G. Quinn (Blue John), Lizzy Caplan (Sonja Ralston), P.J. Hull (Boy on Sofa)
For his first film since winning multiple Oscars for the unlikely, crowd-pleasing hit Slumdog Millionaire (2008), director Danny Boyle set himself a fundamental cinematic challenge: How do you maintain visual and narrative interest in a story that is fundamentally about enforced stasis? Movement--visceral, kinetic movement--has been the hallmark of Boyle’s films since his auspicious directorial debut Shallow Grave (1994), whether it be the introduction of the main characters in a dead sprint to Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life” in Trainspotting (1996) or Slumdog’s bobbing, weaving back-and-forth narrative structure. Given the wide breadth of genres he has tackled, Boyle is nothing if not daring, and he has a gift for infusing his material with a vibrant energy. 127 Hours, then, would seem to be the perfect match of challenging material and resourceful director, and while Boyle brings the story to life with great gusto, his approach often feels overly forced and labored. Boyle has always been a showy filmmaker with a tendency toward overdirecting, but it’s been a while (at least since 1997’s bizarre romantic farce A Life Less Ordinary) that his flash has been this distracting.
Boyle’s subject is Aron Ralston (James Franco), a 28-year-old adventure enthusiast who, in 2003, was hiking alone in the remote Blue John Canyon in Utah when he slipped and subsequently found himself at the bottom of a narrow crevice with his right arm trapped between a loosed boulder and the canyon wall. The film’s title refers to the amount of time he spent in that crevice, with little food or water, enduring freezing cold nights and the growing realization that, because no one was coming to rescue him, the only way to survive was to literally lose part of himself. Given that most people will already know Aron’s method of escape before watching the film, there is a built-in queasy suspense as we wait, knowing that he will eventually have to break his own bones and saw through his own skin, muscle, and tendons with a dull knife. Like any good horror film, 127 Hours teases our desire to confront the truly horrific, trapping us in that crevice with Aron and ticking off the minutes and hours until the inevitable arrives. What makes the film worthwhile despite Boyle’s visual distractions is the way in which it turns the ordeal into both a strange coming-of-age tale in which Aron matures in the flames of his own making and a transcendent celebration of life and the people with whom we share it.
Boyle tackles the film’s primary challenge of how to fill those 127 hours--to convey the agony and monotony of entrapment without turning the film into a bore--with his usual visual aplomb, rejecting the notion of real time in favor of a relentlessly edited push and pull between Aron’s tortured subjectivity and God-like objectivity (epitomized in the shot that begins with Aron at the bottom of the crevice and pulls out until we’re thousands of feet in the air, thus emphasizing not just his isolation, but his literal smallness in the wilderness he sought to conquer with his bravado). At times this approach works marvelously, as cinematographers Enrique Chediak and Anthony Dod Mantle flood us with distorted images and canted angles to both underscore Aron’s physically suffocating confines and convey his exhausted, dehydrated state of mind. At other times, the film pushes too hard, which lays bare the cinematic trickery instead of fusing it with Aron’s emotional and spiritual experience. This is especially true of the score by A.R. Rahman (who wrote the Oscar-winning music for Slumdog Millionaire), which at times overwhelms the action on-screen. Visually, sonically, and tonally, 127 Hours is too often at odds with itself in competing for our attention.
This is doubly frustrating because Boyle has such a magnificent actor in James Franco, whose performance as Aron provides the film’s heart and keeps its pulse beating. Franco conveys Aron’s boyish, cocksure enthusiasm and confidence in the film’s opening passages, which include a sequence in which he crosses paths with two female hikers (Amber Tamblyn and Kate Mara) and takes them to a secret underground pool. Aron is likeable in a free-wheeling sort of way, but he’s also a bit reckless, happily snapping a picture of himself after a bike accident and constantly tempting danger by hiking alone in remote regions without telling anyone where he is going. His experience fuels his confidence, and both are tested to the extreme once he is trapped.
It is here that Franco draws us into Aron’s interior world, as he begins to videotape monologues to himself and his family, the extremity of his situation loosening his rugged individualism and forcing him to recognize how much he is loved and all he will miss if he dies (the fact that Franco manages to make the potentially cliché regret of not returning his mother’s phone call so deeply moving is testament to the power of his performance). Franco’s range of emotions, from fiery determination, to barely lucid desperation, is its own tour de force, which makes most of Boyle’s visual fireworks fundamentally redundant. Aron’s emotional unfolding, best captured in the unbroken, low-res video monologues, provides the film’s heart and turns the gruesome eventuality to which Aron must resign himself into a horrifying, but ultimately poignant paean to human endurance and the will to survive.
|27 Hours 2-Disc Blu-Ray + Digital Copy Set|
|Subtitles||English, French, Spanish, Portuguese|
|Distributor||20th Century Fox Entertainment|
|Release Date||March 1, 2010|
|VIDEO & AUDIO|
|The high-definition image on this dual-layered 50GB Blu-Ray disc is an excellent representation of the film’s look. Shot entirely on high-definition video using a Silicon Imaging SI-2K digital camera (except for the intentionally low-res video shot by Franco’s character), 127 Hours has a sharp, intense visual scope that is dominated by intensely saturated reds and blues during the opening sequences in the Utah mountains. Once Aron is trapped, it includes more muted colors and darkness, and the image quality maintains shadow and black levels very well while also rendering the finest of detail with great clarity (which made my appreciation of the excellent studio sets that much stronger). The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1-channel surround track does its job well, pumping up the sometimes overbearing score by A.H. Rahman, but also making excellent use of the surround channels to fill the room with detailed ambient noise that helps you feel trapped right alongside Aron in the canyon.|
|There aren’t a ton of supplements on the 127 Hours Blu-Ray, but what is included is well worth your time. You would do well to start with the audio commentary recorded by director/co-screenwriter Danny Boyle, producer Christian Colson, and co-screenwriter Simon Beaufoy. Having previously worked together on Slumdog Millionaire, the three men have an easy, casual rapport that makes the stories they tell behind the production that much more interesting. They also appear in “127 Hours: An Extraordinary View,” a 35-minute featurette that gives us behind-the-scenes footage of production in the actual Blue John Canyon and in the studio where they built a completely convincing replica of Aron’s place of entrapment. A second featurette, “Search & Rescue,” which runs about 18 minutes, documents how Aron’s mother, his boss, several of his friends, and a number of park rangers tried to find Aron once he was reported missing. Finally, the disc includes several deleted scenes, all of which are interesting, but were cut for good reason.|
Copyright ©2010 James Kendrick
Thoughts? E-mail James Kendrick
All images copyright © Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment