Combustible Celluloid
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With: James Franco, Kate Mara, Amber Tamblyn, Sean A. Bott, Treat Williams, John Lawrence, Kate Burton, Rebecca C. Olson, Clémence Poésy, Lizzy Caplan
Written by: Danny Boyle, Simon Beaufoy, based on a book by Aron Ralston
Directed by: Danny Boyle
MPAA Rating: R for language and some disturbing violent content/bloody images
Running Time: 94
Date: 09/04/2010

127 Hours (2010)

3 Stars (out of 4)

A Rock and a Hard Place

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

James Franco gives a powerhouse, muscular performance in the one-man centerpiece role, humanizing the movie and providing its emotional core.

One weekend Aron Ralston (James Franco) decides to go hiking and climbing by himself. He haphazardly packs his backpack with water and supplies and heads out. He spends some time with two girls (Amber Tamblyn and Kate Mara), who are lost, and shows them an underground lake. They part ways, and a little later, Aron slips and falls into a canyon. A boulder lands on top of his arm, pinning him and trapping him. For five days, Aron tries to escape, rations his food and water, tries to keep warm, and passes the time by remembering and imagining his friends and family. He eventually decides that, to escape, he needs to make a painful sacrifice.

Directed by Danny Boyle -- a follow up to his Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire -- the movie is very slick and stylish, including shots from inside a water bottle, and x-ray shots of Aron's arm, as well as a large collection of fantasy sequences and flashbacks, and clever, effective cinematography and editing.

One could argue that this high style is gratuitous, but on the other hand, it may be necessary to help the very intense material go down a little smoother; it gives viewers occasional rest breaks and moments of hope. It will be interesting to compare 127 Hours to another recent one-man "trapped" movie, the almost totally stripped down Buried. Both movies are powerful in their own ways. However, 127 Hours will no doubt resonate more with audiences, given its hopeful message and themes of bravery and heroism.

Fox issued a Blu-Ray with a digital copy included. Bonus features include a commentary track with director Boyle, writer Beaufoy, and producer Christian Colson. There are also deleted scenes, and two featurettes, one about the real-life search and rescue of Aron Ralston, and one about the "unique" collaboration between Boyle and Franco (though if it's so unique, why isn't Franco on the commentary track?). Two things: the over-directed movie is such a mish-mash of video and film styles that it looks only sporadically good on Blu-Ray. Also, I never want to see this excruciating movie again.

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