Rajeev Masand – movies that matter : from bollywood, hollywood and everywhere else

January 28, 2011

Rock steady

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 11:52 pm

January 28, 2011

Cast: James Franco, Amber Tamblyn, Kate Mara

Director: Danny Boyle

Some films transport you to the centre of their action, and watching 127 Hours your mind repeatedly goes over the same thought: What if it was me there? What would I have done?

Danny Boyle’s new film is based on a memoir by American engineer and mountaineer Aron Ralston. In 2003, without telling anyone of his destination, Ralston headed into the Utah desert to climb through the remote Blue John Canyon. Trapped in a small crevice with a heavy boulder pinning his arm to the canyon wall, he spent five days trying to break free and call for help before finally using a blunt knife to cut off his arm.

Just thinking about it is horrific enough, but Boyle has said that anyone in Ralston’s place would do the same. I hope I never have to find out.

127 Hours stars James Franco, who is magnificent as Aron Ralston. In the first 20 minutes of the film, we see that he’s a daredevil, a free-spirited soul who enjoys the thrill of adventure. He has a reckless charm that’s irresistible to the two ladies he meets that first afternoon at the canyon, before he is stuck and his ordeal begins.

For the next 70 minutes or so, we watch as he struggles to free himself. When nothing works and death seems imminent, his life flashes before his eyes.

Using hallucinations, flashbacks, and a frenetic editing style, director Danny Boyle turns a grim, static situation into a thrilling emotional and visual ride. Surprisingly, there are moments of humor too, and they never appear fake. In one of the film’s best scenes Ralston, who is recording heartfelt video messages to his family on a small camera, impersonates a radio broadcast in which he does all the voices.

Everything of course is building up to that harrowing scene where Ralston decides to sever his limb. Those who’re squeamish about the sight of blood should know that Boyle doesn’t shy away from showing the amputation. We see Ralston picking through nerves and chipping away at the bone breathlessly until, just like that, he is separated from the arm, which remains stuck behind the rock.

127 Hours is an overwhelming tale of courage under fire. It’s about hope, survival, and about choosing life. Boyle tells this claustrophobic story with such visual and dramatic zeal that in the end, it amounts to so much more than just the horror of that amputation. Indeed the image that ultimately chokes you up isn’t that of the blade slicing through flesh, but of Ralston seeing help in the end and finding his voice to summon it.

The extraordinary cinematography by Anthony Dod Mantle and Enrique Chediak, and AR Rahman’s haunting score complement Boyle’s rich and imaginative storytelling style. And James Franco who appears in more or less every scene delivers a performance nothing short of spellbinding. Franco invests everything he’s got; he sheds his pride, and gives up every last trace of vanity to create the most compelling character he’s played on screen.

I’m going with four out of five for Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours. It’s an experience strictly for the big screen. Prepare to be overwhelmed.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)


  1. awesome movie…….best review….great music…..

    Comment by aashiq — January 29, 2011 @ 6:55 am

  2. i watched the movie first day first show… it was a completely different experience than what i have been subjected to in recent times.given the limitations of the situation in which which 80% of the movie is showing the struggle of the lead actor trying to escape, danny boyle has done very good job. the movie is very quick paced and never drags. the people who watch it expecting entertainment may get disappointment. but the acting by james franco as well as the music, editing and cinematography make you feeling to want some more at the end. go and watch it on big screen.

    Comment by piyush — January 29, 2011 @ 7:58 am

  3. this is really a well directed movie so far, and james franco was so realistically acted………

    Comment by Wicky — January 29, 2011 @ 11:28 am

  4. Great movie. Franco is just awsome. Magnificent direction and editing. Dont you think sir the movie deserves four and half stars. Emotional, adveturous, touching n involving movie. Loved it.

    Comment by Chaitanya Jagtap — January 29, 2011 @ 11:41 am

  5. I watched the movie.I loved when the Movie title appears when Aron falls.Movie is superb and Hope James Franco gets his oscar But colin Firth is ready for The King’s speech[watched also].

    I was shocked when the rain started and took away Aron.But it only imagined thanx god.

    But ‘Trainspotting’ Is still the best work of Danny Boyle

    Comment by priyabrata swain — January 29, 2011 @ 1:54 pm

  6. 127 hours had me gripping the seat until my knuckles turned white. i had tears in my eyes at the end. Franco is simply superb

    Comment by millie — January 29, 2011 @ 1:55 pm

  7. this movie is about the triumph of the indomitable human spirit..really inspirational !!

    Comment by ganesh — January 29, 2011 @ 2:32 pm

  8. Man u r just spot on, its more than wat happened in the real affair for Aron.. Danny Boyle tells the story with such ease and each each frame is shot to hell perfection and oh boy hauntingly outstanding was A R Rahman’s BGM’s.. definitely its a movie for the silver screen…

    Comment by hibath — January 29, 2011 @ 4:12 pm

  9. Nothing has been said about A.R.Rahman

    Comment by Andy — January 29, 2011 @ 8:19 pm

  10. well written review. its a celebration of life. you did mention that sound final breaking of bone. franco deserves oscar

    Comment by mallik — January 30, 2011 @ 2:49 pm

  11. Franco was awesome.. and Danny Boyle once again has shown what he’s about.. with slick editing and thrilling visuals depicting a struggling guy’s emotions.. it was all sooo very apt!

    I have only seen Boyle’s ‘The Beach’ and ‘Slumdog Millionnaire’ apart from 127hrs.. now must go back and checkout all his work.. esp Trainspotting, which has been lying on my drive for a while.

    Comment by scorpyash — January 31, 2011 @ 12:00 pm

  12. I’ve been waiting for this film for a long long time, having been a fan of Mr. Boyle and especially James Franco (loved Freaks and Geeks, Pineapple Express, Milk and Harry Osborn). The trailer was brilliant and the Utahan (or should it be Utahn) scenery was spell-binding. With AR Rahman’s music and an adrenaline junkie (and his lady-admirers) falling from crevices into teal coloured subterranean lakes, the film seemed an interesting foray for Danny Boyle and we wondered what was next.

    *spoilers ahead* (tongue-in-cheek)

    Surprisingly we didn’t have to wait too long. It was clear that Aron Ralston spent 127 hours in the crevice where his hand was caught under a boulder after which he amputated his forearm and set himself free. We knew that he reflected on his life while caught there. So why did we go to watch this film? How would the director still hold our attention.

    My guess was a pop philosophical moment of realisation a la “Into the Wild”, a film where Sean Penn led us along Chris McCandless’ life and we grew to admire his courage, question his decisions, pray for his safety and cry at his demise. Of course, this film did have his ‘aha’ moment when Aron decided to call his mum back and care for his family (and choose to leave a note when he left for such an adventure), but was that enough? Did he question his own need for glory, his hero-complex, his people issues which drove him to isolation? Considering how he returned to greater glory, climbing mountains and scaling peaks with one hand, I think the answer was ‘no’.

    So what did Mr. Boyle do? Well he used all his cinematic techniques to keep us enraptured. The ants, the split-screens, the water bottle, the blood and gore; they ensured that we stayed riveted to our seats.

    All in all, excellent entertainment. Classy film-making and yet on some visceral level a trifle disappointing.


    Comment by Aditya — January 31, 2011 @ 5:39 pm

  13. This film is perfect,. And honestly it freaked me out a little, I have started leaving notes and texts to my family whenever I go out of the house.. How many movies hv u seen that make u more responsible?

    Comment by Amit — February 1, 2011 @ 2:39 pm

  14. Disagreed. The movie is strictly OK with the guy only trying to find a way out under impossible situations. I dont know how Danny managed to pull a whole damned movie about what happened in a real incidence, and that too not very satisfying. I expected an adventurous ride. I understand it’s a real-life movie, but I didn’t necessarily find any jaw-dropping moments (except that Franco was so-good in imitating and talking to himself in a comic manner) and the movie itself was stuck with that unmovable rock. Danny should have invented Franco’s free-spirited moves and his previous adventures rather than directly jumping into that STUCK 10 mins. after movie started. I (and also my other 3 friends who had same opinions as me) was literally exhausted going with that guy on a journey where he cuts his hand off especially when I exactly knew the climax and I was just waiting to end those 127 hours.

    Danny did a decent job in directing the movie, but you can’t compare with SLMDM.
    Cinematography and background score was terrific. 3/5.

    Comment by nihin — February 6, 2011 @ 7:44 pm

  15. My Review


    Comment by tanuj — February 27, 2011 @ 4:39 pm

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