Review: 127 Hours



Is there a genre Danny Boyle can’t handle?

I mean, seriously.


Is there a genre Danny Boyle can't handle?

I mean, seriously.{{page_break}}

Danny Boyle's latest foray into a genre he's never touched before, survival films, is 127 Hours. If you don't know Danny Boyle he's the man behind last year's best picture winner Slumdog Millionaire; the zombie movie the reinvented the zombie movie, 28 Days Later; the drug film that is still the greatest drug film of all time, Trainspotting; the science fiction film Sunrise; and many more. You may notice a pattern here in that there is no pattern at all to the films he makes. And yet despite veering wildly from genre to genre he absolutely nails every one of them (except for Sunshine, which was only good, not great).

I was under the assumption that the man would finally hit a genre his skills wouldn't be able to tackle, and that it was about time he did this. It could have very easily been 127 Hours as he's tackling both the survival film and the true story. It falls into the true story genre because 127 Hours is about Aaron Ralston (James Franco), better known as the climber who sawed his own arm off with a dull knife after it had been pinned by a boulder. It falls into the survival film genre because he saws his arm off after it gets pinned by a boulder. Both these genres can go horribly wrong with either too much embellishment or too little, but Boyle once again delivers magnificently producing a film that is tense and thrilling the entire time despite taking place almost entirely in one spot with a character who can barely move.

Boyle deftly crafts the film, mixing his signature style with the amazing story perfectly. His ability to capture the tension and feeling that Ralston is going through is absolutely superb, especially when he quickly juxtaposes flashbacks in Ralston's life with his current predicament. However, he smartly never leaves reality for too long. A lesser director would have had nothing to do but continually cut back to Ralston's previous life in order to fill out the film, but Boyle simply creates a movie that somehow puts you in Ralston's shoes instead of simply telling his story. Almost everything Ralston feels you feel too, and it makes the apex of the film — the severing of the arm — one of the most horrifying and painful experiences you will ever have in a theater despite it not being one of the most horrifying or painful things you will ever see in a theater.

If you somehow never heard of the story of Ralston do not worry that I have completely ruined the film for you. It is superbly paced and acted so that knowing the ending matters little. In fact Boyle's direction, especially the opening ten minutes where he slams the viewer with sensory overload so that he can quickly cut you off from everything the second Ralston is cut off from everything, is set up around that fact that you do know what is coming. Instead of asking the question of will Ralston survive he asks how did he survive and it makes for a far more interesting and provocative film.

It also helps that Franco is particularly superb. While he isn't the only thing on screen for the entire film (e.g. Tom Hanks in Castaway) the movie does rely entirely on his performance. If he had been off on a single note it could have all fallen apart, but he performs admirably. It's especially impressive because Ralston is a pretty stoic character for the situation he's in and he has no one to bounce his emotions off of. There's a lot of subdued moments that Franco does very well in the film, aided immensely by Boyle's direction, which is frantic when it needs to be and calm when it does not.

So we must wait for Boyle to fall. If his pattern of having absolutely no pattern at all holds up then we'll be seeing some other genre from him next. Maybe in the future he'll fall on his face, but the more I see from him the harder and harder it is to believe that that will ever happen and the easier and easier it is to believe we are looking at one of the best directors of this or any generation.

8.90 – Spectacular. (Movies that score between 8.50 and 9.00 are some of the best films its genre has ever created, and fans of any genre will thoroughly enjoy them.)

127 Hours proves once again that Danny Boyle is one of the best directors working. With style, skill and gusto he turns what could be one of the most boring films ever into one the most riveting experiences you will ever have in a theater. It helps that James Falco's performance is one of the best of the year as well.

Geoff Henao:

Overall Score: 8.75 — 127 Hours is a suspense-filled look into a man’s mind as he faces death.If James Franco isn’t already considered to be an A-list actor, his performance in 127 Hours should be proof enough of just how talented he is. Read his full review here.

Matthew Razak
Matthew Razak is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Flixist. He has worked as a critic for more than a decade, reviewing and talking about movies, TV shows, and videogames. He will talk your ear off about James Bond movies, Doctor Who, Zelda, and Star Trek.