Gory real-life drama directed by Danny Boyle Discuss this article
Danny Boyle is good at taking a grimy subject, flashing it a smile and stabbing it through the heart with a big, fat, dripping shot of adrenaline.
There’s little more gruesome and extreme than the story of Aron Ralston, an American outdoors nut who, in 2003, went canyoning alone in Utah without telling anyone where he was going. James Franco plays the frenetic 27-year-old as an experience junkie and sociable loner. He bombs through the desert on a mountain bike leaving a trail of dust behind him. He meets girls in the wilderness, makes them laugh and leaps into underground lakes with them before saying goodbye. He bounds over gulleys. Then he misses his footing, slips into a canyon and a boulder follows him down, pinning his arm to the wall just as he lands on his feet. He’s trapped, and the film’s kineticism turns in on itself: like Ralston, its energy is stuck in a hole.
From the off, Boyle winds up our nerves with split-screens, pumping music and archive inserts – and he never stops. We know, of course, that Ralston eventually escapes by carving off his arm with a penknife, so there’s a deep intake of breath when the accident happens early. Where will Boyle take us? It’s a great challenge to witness and it brings out the best in Boyle. Just don’t expect to breathe normally for some time.
127 Hours is a tough ride: not only because of the grim facts, but because of the overwhelming experience of total cinema that Boyle inflicts on us to tell Ralston’s story. At the end, we stagger like Ralston from the dark into the light. We might have both our arms left, but our nerves are just as terrorised.
Time Out Doha,