So guess what I did this week...
I think everyone remembers where they were when they first heard the story of Aron Ralston. Sort of the survivalist equivalent of the JFK assassination. It's certainly something you never forget. A tale of the most horrifying proportions, you almost couldn't imagine anything worse then getting trapped on a boulder for six days in the desert, with options of either cutting off your arm or being found in a couple of years just a skeleton in hiking gear. Yet also a tale of the most awesome proportions, about a human being who was simply too much of a badass to be defeated by something as feeble as certain death. And if you are going to point to an instance of the human spirit triumphing over all else because fuck that, this wouldn't be the worst example to bring up.
Whether it would make a great film though is a different question. By its very nature, the film can't go anywhere and while a great performance was almost inevitable. How does the story of a man trapped under a rock last 90 minutes? Suspicion arose further for me when Danny Boyle's name became attached, because while he is a brilliant director, he's not one for restraint. I thought it would hinge of whether Boyle could bench the hyper-kinetic visual style for a film and just let the horror of the situation sell itself.
Couldn't be more wrong.
I'm tempted to say that this is actually Boyle's most visually adventurous, balls out iteration of his expressionism on Red Bull shtick. And it worked perfectly. 127 Hours is one of the most striking films you'll see all year, said on January 6th, but it doesn't sacrifice the story to make this happen. Ralston's story is told and then some, thanks to some career best work from James Franco, whose renaissance from wooden as Keanu Reeves Harry Osborn and star of Annapolis to actor so consistently awesome, daring and unpredictable that he's definitely got to be considered one of the most interesting actors going, but he does something new here. He delivers a performance that just carries the thing so wonderfully, in turns stoic, pathetic, badass and heart-breaking. Even hilarious in one particular scene. After this, Franco has to enter the conversation to be considered as one of the best actors of his generation, something the inevitable and deserved Oscar nomination that will come off the back of this film will help no end.
As for Boyle, there are perhaps a couple of occasions that his style went too far down Oliver Stone way, but why it worked so well is because it made the experience so visceral, so brutal and so uncompromising. You hear, see and feel everything. And there was me thinking this could only be done right if you verited this bitch. That's why he's Danny Boyle I suppose. A unique piece of film-making to be sure.