Wednesday, November 17, 2010

127 Hours

I've likely mentioned this before, but as much as I like Boyle's movies, I also love the shape his career has taken as a story: Starting out in British TV; gaining notice with a couple of well-regarded independent movies (Shallow Grave and Trainspotting); going to Hollywood with a pair of movies that are not only sort of spectacular box office bombs (A Life Less Ordinary and The Beach), but which mark the end of working relationships with writer John Hodge and star Ewan MacGregor; heading back to the UK to do a couple of TV-movies for the BBC; returning energized and independent again with 28 Days Later...; and following that up with a string of well-executed movies that are most united by an abject refusal to be pigeonholed into a single genre (Millions, Sunshine, Slumdog Millionaire, and now 127 Hours).

Sure, it would be a better story if that "exile" between The Beach and 28 Days Later... lasted more than a couple of years, but isn't it better for us as movie lovers that there is effectively no real pause in his career? Still, even without the storyline, it's a remarkably diverse career, and that's one of the reasons I'm so fond of Boyle - even though he has a few tropes he likes to come back to (the "bag of money" movies) and does have a recognizable style (high-energy, optimism where many other filmmakers would go for dark & gritty), he seems nearly as determined as the Coen Brothers to make a different movie each time. Fortunately, I like his style and attitude, and though sometimes I wish he'd repeat himself (I would really, really like another Sunshine - not a sequel, just another great-looking, exciting science fiction movie with interesting ideas and a great international cast), it's actually quite amazing that he can be this good so consistently, no matter what he applies himself to.

Now - to actually watch some of his earlier movies. I'm kind of ashamed that I haven't seen Shallow Grave, Trainspotting, or The Beach, despite being a fan.

127 Hours

* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 14 November 2010 at Coolidge Corner Theatre #1 (first-run)

There is not a whole heck of a lot to 127 Hours, story-wise: Guy goes climbing on his own, gets pinned by a falling boulder, and has to figure out a way to get out of a thoroughly intractable situation. Filmmakers look at a story like that and figure getting ninety minutes of movie from it is either going to be all but impossible or a terrific challenge. Considering that Danny Boyle is one of those directors whose mission with each new picture seems to be pushing himself to do something he hasn't tried yet, it's not surprising that he both sees it as a challenge and does a fine job of rising to it.

Though Aron Ralston (James Franco) is a friendly and charming guy, he's too jittery and on-the-go to really set down roots or figure others into his plans. So, with the weekend off from his job at a sporting goods store, he heads into Utah's Canyonlands National park. He meets up with Kristi (Kate Mara) and Megan (Amber Tamblyn), a pair of cute hikers, but not long after showing them a cool swimming hole, and having them invite him to a party the next night, they split. He's miles away from anyone else at 3pm on Saturday when the boulder drops, pinning his right arm and trapping him in a narrow crevice, with provisions for maybe a couple of days.

127 Hours isn't really a movie about suspense; although a fair amount of people in the audience likely won't know what happens at the end of those 5+ days (though looking at the cover of the source material may tip them off). And while I've joked about wondering what this movie would be like had Werner Herzog been in the director's chair, it's not primarily a film about man versus nature. That conflict - the natural world's supreme indifference to whether any of its creatures (including human beings) live or die - is here just the catalyst for forcing Aron to think about the way he's been living his life.

Full review at EFC.

1 comment:

elgart said...

It is an amazing piece of filmmaking.