Wednesday, February 16, 2011

127 Hours

And I now narrow my list of Best Picture nominees I have yet to see down to just Black Swan and True Grit. Hey, it matters to me, alright? Anyway, this wasn’t really one of the better nominees, but it’s still a pretty solid if somewhat over-directed film.

James Franco stars as Aron Ralston, an energetic part time hiker that is spending yet another weekend canyoneering (See, movies can teach new words!) in Utah when, after meeting two cute girls and getting invited to a party they’re throwing that evening, he finds himself in a bit of a pickle. Specifically, he finds his arm trapped underneath a rock that came loose and fell on him during his adventure. We are then stuck with him for the next 127 hours (Hey, like the title!) as he tries every way available to free himself, before finally accepting that he’s going to need to use his knife to chip away at something other than the rock pinning him.

It’s a really interesting story, and is really well acted, but I found it being occasionally overdone pretty heavily. I know director Danny Boyle has a bit of a history of over-directing, but this is a story that screams for something a bit more low key. Instead, he directs chunks of it as though he were trying to make an extreme sports fan’s ultimate fantasy movie, very loud and in-your-face and more than slightly abrasive. Even when the story’s been reduced to just him stuck under a rock, Boyle throws in constant flashbacks and daydreams, complete with split screens, ugly fishbowl lens shots, and anything else Boyle can think of to keep from letting us just focus on the story at hand. It’s all very unnecessary and distracting, and weakens the film considerably.

This is not to say that it’s a bad movie. It’s one of the rather surprising number of films made in recent years about someone stuck in one location fighting nature for survival (putting it with the likes of Frozen and Buried, both of which also came out in 2010), and while it’s not the best in that genre I’ve seen (Frozen is my current favorite), it’s certainly one of the better ones. James Franco works his ass off here, managing an increasing amount of desperation and despair while keeping true to a core level of confidence and optimism. Not an easy task, and he definitely earns his Best Actor nomination, if nothing else.

Of course, that’s obviously not the only good part of the film, and to be fair, Boyle does manage to occasionally reign himself in and give us some scenes of quiet sadness as he stands there (because of his pinned arm, he’s unable to sit) quietly understanding that he’s almost certainly going to die. I wish the entire movie had been this calm and thoughtful, but the film still manages to get us into Ralston’s mind well enough despite Boyle’s Tony Scottization (I’m making that a term now, yes) of the visual scheme.

This is probably the weakest of the Best Picture nominees (though again, I still have two left to see), and that’s due almost entirely to Boyle going so overboard with the visual style as though he wasn’t confident enough in the material. It’s still really well acted and surprisingly fast-paced for a movie with so little action to it. If I wish it were better, it could easily have been so much worse as well.

Rating: ***

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