So far, I've seen seven of the Best Picture nominees. All of which are deserving for their nomination, and 127 Hours is the latest from the genre of critically acclaimed movies intended for film buffs.
To be honest, I've never heard of the initial story of Aron Ralston having his arm stuck and then cutting off so he won't die. The story turned into a media frenzy and it's an inspirational story of survival that anyone could see.
Danny Boyle (whose previous work includes Trainspotting, 28 Days Later and lastly Slumdog Millionaire) had been wanting to make this for years now and today, he succeeded. Boyle retells the story in his daring and provocative style.
Ralston is played by James Franco and Ralston was an avid and free-spirited adventurer taking no barriers and boundaries with him in Canyonlands in Utah. He meets two girl hikers on the way going the same way as Ralston. After he left them, he goes way deeper into the canyons where, wait for it... a boulder fell behind Ralston and his arm got trapped in the process. He does several ways to get out of the rock and the only way out is... amputate his arm that is trapped.
Another movie that was so similar was Buried where for 90 minutes you get to see Ryan Reynolds trying to escape from a coffin that is buried. The movie was a sort of a gimmick, there was no story and it was just experimental so they can challenge the audience. But for 127 Hours, the premise is the same with the same length of time. The difference is it has a story that is structured, there is character and the film is visually stimilating.
Boyle is a filmmaker whose vibrant style should be appreciated. The opening sequence is almost shot like an ad starring any top NBA player you liked. It's shot with a population of ordinary people cheering or doing their normal routine. Boyle takes the camera into various angles and shots from a bird's view, extreme close-ups and high-angle. The visual empowerment comes from Ralston's vivid hallucinations and imagery of memories that feels avant-garde It's also literally shot on a hand-held video-cam where the close-ups of Aron are absolutely grainy and personal.
To tell that this was made by Boyle is that he's obsessed with his edits it makes the film more tight and edgy.
Boyle always get brownie points for the music in his films. He spanned two soundtracks for Trainspotting, brought Bollywood to the West Side in Slumdog Millionaire. His second collaboration with A.R Rahman is a great one as the score is truly atmospheric.
James Franco brings in a captivating performance and I think in almost a year as a film buff and my own opinion, the greatest and flawless from a kind of actor in this contemporary era of film. He's free-spirited and charismatic since he does everything he want to do which makes Ralston more likeble and more of a role model. When he's stuck in a boulder, he goes deep into his regrets and memories that were both in happier and sadder times. Ralston is not so much inspirational as it'll thought it will be (face it. IF you're trapped on a boulder, you would rather cut your own arm off) but he inspires to confront times of relationships going on and off between his former girlfriend, his family and work colleagues and times that would've happened before he'd got trapped. For instance, he would've been to this party the two hikers had invited had he didn't kept on going. Franco also gives his character some comic relief as well. Franco gives the defining performance of his career as a multi-talented actor who have different skills. And yes, repeat, a flawless one.
But the most discussed issue about 127 Hours is that amputation scene. That scene doesn't end the whole movie. It is over-realistic, but it's the situation of life and death he has to face if he had ran out of needs to have him survive. This is not for the faint-hearted who will literally faint when seeing that film. But, repeat, it doesn't end the entire chapter of Ralston's life as it is unpredictable when you think it would be predictable given the premise is that simple. Once you'll see Franco cutting his own arm off, you will give out a huge sigh of relief that he'd finally made it out. It is excruciating to watch but it's pumped up.
Boyle shows off his finest with this film as he has made a movie that has a basic premise, but inside is an emotional ride and journey of the explorer's life. This is almost perfect. It is one of the most visceral contemporary films of the millenieum and it is an unforgettable experience.
What a ripper!