With the success of the Oscar-dominating Slumdog Millionaire, Danny Boyle put himself in the enviable position of making any film he damn well pleases. But is this really the film you want to make when you attain that power?
127 Hours is based on Aron Ralston’s book Between a Rock and a Hard Place, chronicling his own excursion into the canyons of Utah. The first 15 minutes of the film feel like a series of flashily edited commercials, sans the obvious logo placement. First Jeep (or Subaru, whatever). Then a mountain bike. And finally water, as we (the viewer) are sucked out of a CamelBak along with the sparkling blue liquid flowing into the mouth of Ralston (James Franco).
After meeting a couple of female adventurists (Kate Mara and Amber Tamblyn) and performing a series of canyon dives, Ralston goes his own way and eventually gets stuck in the predicament implied by the title of his book. It’s a bit disheartening for anyone who remembers the story from when it was all over the news in 2003 because we’re simply waiting for what we already know is going to happen.
All of this fun stuff at the beginning is exhilarating enough, but really has nothing to do with the reason this film has been made and merely feels tacked on in an attempt to reach feature length. Once Ralston gets his hand caught in a boulder in the Blue John Canyon, we’re bombarded with a series of flashbacks and mirages because, well… what else is Boyle going to show us? We can’t sit here and watch Franco piss in his water bottle and scratch away at this rock for an hour.
Look, this isn’t a bad film by any means. It does a far better job of capturing the feeling of claustrophobia than the recent Buried. Franco is very good and particularly funny in one scene where he stages a mock talk show, poking fun at himself for being a “big fucking hard hero” and not telling anyone where he was going. I’ve just come to expect a lot more from Boyle, whose heavy-handed script beats you over the head with themes of fate and appreciation of family.
The film’s 94 minute runtime felt like three hours. That’s enough to tell me this story, while remarkable, was better left on the pages of Time and Newsweek.