127 Hours (Film Review)

4 out of 4 stars

When it comes to nature-bound survival stories, ‘127 Hours’ might just be the most expertly crafted and moving film of its kind. Equaling director Danny Boyle’s previous hit ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ in every way, the film easily impresses with its tour-de-force performance from lead actor James Franco, its kinetic direction, and the sheer originality of its story. Without a doubt, ‘127 Hours’ is a genuine artistic triumph from start to finish.

‘127 Hours’ tells the true story of Aron Ralston (James Franco), an adrenaline junkie with a passion for extreme sports. Unfortunately, Ralston’s luck runs out during his latest canyon-climbing trek in Utah:  while inching his way down a canyon, a boulder breaks loose, sending Ralston plummeting to the bottom of the ravine and trapping his arm against a wall. With no way of freeing his arm, only a single bottle of water in his backpack, and no human life within a thousand miles of his location, Ralston must begin a harrowing fight for survival that will ultimately change and him forever.

First and foremost, credit must be given to James Franco for his charming yet painfully honest portrayal of Ralston. Apart from two female hikers that he runs into briefly on his way to the canyon, Franco is the sole actor on screen for the entire film, essentially carrying the entire movie on his shoulders. Not only does Franco make Ralston instantly likable through his charming, carefree personality, but he also gives him one of the most clearly defined and dramatic character arcs in recent memory. As soon as Ralston falls into the darkness of the canyon, the audience can instantly see the cracks in his carefree exterior;  these only deepen with every minute spend fumbling in vain at the boulder at his side.  By the time he emerges from the canyon at the film’s end, he’s a completely different person entirely.  Anyviewers familiar with Franco from his low-brow parts in ‘Spider-Man’ and ‘Pineapple Express’ will undoubtedly be stunned by the quality of his performance here.

Sharing second place on the honour roll are director Danny Boyle and screenwriter Simon Beaufoy, both of who take a potentially unwatchable story and transform it into an epic drama which should make even the most jaded viewers laugh, gasp, and cry numerous times throughout the experience. Script-wise, the film wisely chooses not to limit the action solely to the darkened confines of the canyon, with the light-hearted opening scenes and the moving coda serving as perfect bookend to the intense action of the film’s body.  Additionally, even the scenes in the canyon are rendered with Danny Boyle’s trademark inventiveness. Instead of staying put in the grim darkness of the cave for 90 minutes, the film shows Ralston’s vivid hallucinations as his mind begins to break under stress, with his family, his future children and even Scooby-Doo all visiting him in his torment.

As a director, Danny Boyle’s style has never been richer or more varied, with the film being as much a visual success as an emotional one.  Of particular note is the film’s excellent camera work: when Ralston falls down the hole, the camera itself actually swoops down with him, giving the audience the feeling of actually dropping through the air. The same is true of the bike-riding scenes at the beginning of the film, where the camera-work once again captures the feeling of truly being in motion.  Further adding to the film’s thrills are the gorgeous red-blue desert cinematography and the pulsating electro-rock score from A.R. Rahman, the veteran composer of ‘Slumdog Millionaire’.  When all these elements combine, the result is a feature even more immersive than most 3D films.

Most importantly, ‘127 Hours’ is simply an uplifting, life-affirming experience, an exceptional feat in today’s movie climate. Even in its most graphic scenes, the film always manages to entertain and sympathise with its audience, placing them solely in Ralston’s shoes as they witness first-hand his fight for survival and subsequent growth. By the time Ralston reaches safety, they too should have learned valuable life lessons and rediscovered the things truly most important to them.  Like ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ before it, ‘127 Hours’ is the rare film which accomplishes this without ever being preachy or losing its visceral impact.

At the Oscars, ‘127 Hours’ received 8 nominations including Best Actor for Franco, and deservedly so. Not only does the film rank as one of the moving and inspired films of the year, but it even surpasses previous Danny Boyle classics such as ’28 Days Later’ and ‘Trainspotting’ as the crowning achievement of the director’s career.  Undoubtedly, ’127 Hours’ is a cinematic masterpiece that will only grow in stature with time.




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James Franco as Aron Ralston in '127 Hours'

’127 Hours’ is currently playing in Hong Kong cinemas and is available on DVD in Shenzhen.

Did you like 127 Hours?

  • 4 out of 4 stars (43%, 20 Votes)
  • 3 out of 4 stars (26%, 12 Votes)
  • Not planning to see it! (17%, 8 Votes)
  • 1 out of 4 stars (9%, 4 Votes)
  • 2 out of 4 stars (5%, 3 Votes)

Total Voters: 47

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3 Comments for “127 Hours (Film Review)”

  1. Very full and complete review…Well done!

  2. You’re great, Damien Draxler….

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The Contributor

Damien is a talented, up-and-coming writer building his career in the media industry. His hobbies include playing guitar, listening to music, and watching films!

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