TELLURIDE FILM FEST

Telluride Review & Video: Danny Boyle's Riveting '127 Hours'

by
September 4, 2010

Danny Boyle's 127 Hours

I'm fighting with my own feelings. I love Danny Boyle and I admire everything he achieved in his newest film, 127 Hours, starring James Franco as the real-life mountaineer Aron Ralston, but I didn't love the film. It's great, but not amazing, in my honest and humble opinion, and I'm wrestling with why exactly I feel that way and why I didn't get pulled into the film like I wanted to. In fact, my partner in crime Peter Sciretta and I recorded a video blog debating our feelings (which you can watch at the end), because he loved it and I had problems with it. It is a great film, but I think it just wasn't exactly what I was hoping/expecting to see.

This is one of those true-life stories we've spoken about enough before, so we know what happens. Ralston was out hiking in Utah in 2003 and slipped down a crevasse, where a boulder fell on his right hand, pinning his entire arm. He desperately tried everything to escape, but ended up stuck there for over five days (a total of 127 hours, hence the title) with little food and little water. It's an incredible story and I was fascinated to see this dramatization of what Ralston had to go through, but unlike Rodrigo Cortes' Buried (another stuck-in-one-place, fighting-for-his-life kind of film), I never started sweating and feeling anxious like I know I should've while watching him pinned for all that time. And since seeing the film a few hours ago, I've been thinking endlessly about why that was the case.

One of my own theories is that I'm inherently familiar with the outdoors. I grew up in Colorado, I've spent plenty of my life in the wild, never in a situation like this, but I guess I'm a little more used to it than most of the city-raised folk who will probably see this (just being honest). Coincidentally, I even grew up a few hours away from where Ralston was raised. I think the problem is that Danny Boyle's digital video, over-saturated style - that I normally love seeing (Slumdog Millionaire was one of my favorite films of 2008) - didn't really work for me with a wilderness story like this. I think I wanted to see more of the realistic, less stylized shots than the very trippy, flashback-filled, split-screen looks that Boyle is so well known for. And I think maybe that's what kept me at arms length (pun intended) from this.

Everyone is going to have a different experience watching this and based on the buzz I'm hearing coming from other people (including @slashfilm) who saw it today, most of them were a lot more captivated than I was. I'm not saying it's a bad film by any means, it's actually a great film, but I just couldn't get into as much as I could Slumdog Millionaire or Buried and therefore I couldn't love as much as either of those. I hate making comparisons, but my heart was racing during Buried, and it never was during 127 Hours. Boyle even admitted during the Q&A that he is an "urban filmmaker" (in style and sensibilities) who hates the outdoors and I think that really played against this time, at least with what I was hoping to see.

Then again, I'm not here to critique this because it wasn't what I wanted, and I'm trying not to do that, but I can't say I loved it for those exact reasons I mentioned above. My other complaint is that this really needed a proper, real score. I love A.R. Rahman (Slumdog's soundtrack is one of my all-time favorites), but it didn't work in this. It needed a more melodic, moody conventional score, but instead we get Rahman who sounds like he's experimenting with random instruments throughout the whole thing. Some of the songs in it are good and work in context, but the score was another part that I felt needed a lot of work.

Additionally, James Franco does indeed knock it out of the park with this, and in short I can say that there was never a moment where it seemed like he was "acting", it all felt genuine. He was a perfect choice for the role as well because he can play the range needed to portray Ralston, who is more wild, cocky and comedic than one might expect to see stuck in a situation like this, but Franco fits the bill and did a fantastic job.

I could go on and on talking about different elements that I loved and other elements that I didn't like (there were some comedic moments and flashback moments that also pulled me out) but I think it's best for me to just let everyone experience this movie on their own. However, I did debate with Peter (and you can read his glowing review of this film here) about all of those different elements in our video blog, which we recorded immediately after seeing the film up in the mountains in Telluride. I am anxious to revisit this film and you can be assured that I'll be addressing it again when its released, because I have so much to say about it. But for now, check out the video below for more analysis and stay tuned for more of my coverage from Telluride.

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  • Xerxex
    You're doing what I do, you're getting super stoked for a movie and by the time you see it its not what you expected it to be, and its kind of a let down. I did it with "The Losers" while it was a good movie I was sort let down by it, but after a second viewing it got much better, maybe the same will happen to you with "127 Hours."
  • http://www.firstshowing.net Alex Billington
    Yea, I get it... But I also can't deny that I didn't feel the intensity and heart-racing thrill that I was hoping for (and others felt). It just wasn't there for me, and I honestly blame Boyle's style, which is incredibly sad because I love his style - I guess I just think Boyle's style and an outdoor survival thriller weren't meant to be used together. :(
  • CLAW
    I just hope it's better than Slumdog, sorry Alex I know you liked it but I don't get the people who thought that was a great film and how it won an Oscar for best picture is beyond me. I do have faith in Danny Boyle I've loved all his other movies and I can't wait to see 127 Hours.
  • richard
    this article makes me sad. i was excited for this movie. i hope you are wrong. actually hoping this is a feel-good movie like slumdog.
  • Alex Schollar
    i had the same feeling like alex. When up in the air was coming out, i was excited. it was reitmans third film, i read the book and loved it and loved having george clooney as the lead. but after viewing it i was like ok this was good. not great like wow but i liked it. i wanted to love it and prasie it but i just didnt feel it.
  • Nicc
    That's the problem Alex, you were HOPING and EXPECTING... But hey, you're human like the rest of us, and we've all been guilty of that when it comes to movies. But that feeling of expectation can seriously hinder a movie in ones eyes, simply because your mind has made the movie into something YOUR mind would like to see, instead of enjoying the movie for what it is...
  • dee
    Hmmmm, this may be a slight let down from Boyle. I always thought this was an odd choice for his next movie and the content really doesn't make me want to go see it. I have to see it because along with Darren, Nolan, and Boyle I am huge fans of theirs. But the content of the movie and the whole human survival about this guy doesn't appeal to me at all. Also, how did Franco do in this movie?
  • http://www.firstshowing.net Alex Billington
    #4 - It IS a feel good movie. Actually, the more I think back to it (and I just got to meet Aron Ralston in person tonight, which was amazing) it's an incredibly inspirational and uplifting film. That is undeniable and that is something that Danny Boyle is fantastic at in his films. I didn't give this a score because I actually feel like I really need to see it a second time to fully delve into my full feelings on it. And I'm really starting to believe that I'm going to like it a LOT more upon a second viewing. So... yea. :)
  • http://www.myspace.com/shero_rauf/blog shero
    Boyle is a good director ... I like 28 days latter and he is making original stuff ... But I hated his film (Slumdog Millionaire) when I understand how he was making it ... Using those children for a little amount of money ... for a straight to DVD film.. but in the last days they change it to a Movie that must be released in Cinemas !!! ( How ??? I have no idea !! ) ... I am not saying (Slumdog Millionaire) was a bad movie .. But getting all these Oscars and forgetting about those children ... even there was a clip in Youtube showing how one of the children have no place to sleep !!! that makes me angry ... By the way we forget about the Co Director (Loveleen Tandan) ...who helped a lot for making that movie ... because I am sure Boyle would not be able to make that movie without a good translater and director who can make the stuff easier !! ;-) ---------------------- Now about this movie ... I am sure he is again making an original stuff and I am sure it will have the feeling of 28 days later ...specially for the beginning the loneliness against the nature and the adventure ...and then the main point of the movie ..surviving ...!!! I think it will be a good movie ... but again we saw stuff like that by (Bear Grylls ) a lot specially in Discovery Chanel .. Man vs. Wild ... ;-)
  • Sandra
    Alex, sometimes when we have a favourite movie that we want to become a huge success, expecially during award season, we unkowingly become blind to other movies that may be just as good. We all know that you have a huge thing for Buried. I wonder if your love for Buried affected your view on 127 Hours.
  • I am...
    whoever is really going to spend either time and/or money going to see this is.... Well, we all have our taste haven't we? As far as I'm concerned, it's a waste of talent for both (Franco and Boyle) Why on earth would I want to learn about some kind of daredevil who got lost, spent 127 hrs only to realize that he had to give something in exchange of his freedom. Once he realized that, guess how long it took to take his arm off? JUST 1H lollll! You don't even have to see the trailer to realize how selfish it is and stupid. He didn't even tell people where he was.... Furthermore the bugger is still climbing , save one harm of course. lolll! You really have to have a lot of time to want to watch such things. lolll! He is lucky he got even a movie got made out of such nonsense. I hope it will bomb, not because I am a hater but because , it's a WASTE (time,money and energy) and should be clearly seen as such regardless of who is attached to it. #8: that's funny because you say it's a feel good movie. loll PLEASE,just see the stuff for what it is and name it! "I didn't give this a score because I actually feel like I really need to see it a second time to fully delve into my full feelings on it." loll! very funny again, did you have the same feelings that put you off giving a score when you saw INCEPTION,TDK or THE LAST AIRBENDER or even THE KARATE KID? Let me answer....NOPE! You didn't give a score because you're somewhat afraid that it will be below 5 or whatever other standard mark you have and then putting people off, especially those who wait for your reviews. People need to understand that this is a project for Boyle himself, I hope he is not expecting to go mainstream with it because it will be even less than SUNSHINE as the niche is even smaller. At least SUNSHINE was in space and it drew more people even if it flopped.
  • GLupe
    Are you and Pete checking out the new Weir film before you go? I've heard nothing but amazing things...id love to hear what u 2 think...
  • dex
    Yeah, many people who's into comic book adapted movies wouldn't enjoy this.
  • http://www.firstshowing.net Alex Billington
    ^ Uh, that's a little presumptuous... Anyone can enjoy any movie, just because they like comic book movies doesn't mean they won't like another great movie. #12 - I think we're going to see it tonight or tomorrow, hopefully. I really WANT to see it, just trying to fit it into our schedule, since that's the tough part.
  • Harley
    Hey Alex, what do you think about Trainspotting? What's your favorite and least favorite Boyle movie?
  • ben
    feeling overload.
  • Sam Shadey
    Alex, I'm surprised that you failed to mention an important fact in your article. Danny Boyle went out of his way before hand to make sure that the audience knew that they were about to see a rough cut of the film and that he only wanted to show what he had of it at Telluride as a thank you for it's past support of Slumdog. Maybe your opinion of 127 Hours will change after seeing the finished version.
  • Xerxex
    I'm sure with another viewing Alex, you will like it even more!
  • twispious
    I love this review,to the extent where you described your personal affinity to the outdoors. But it doesn't seem like something to get excited over,Franco to me is quite mediocre and better as a concept than an actor,but I really thought Boyle could manage to bring the tension and desolation of 28 Days Later (a film I consider perfect,in every measure) to this,Slumdog was sappy and brutally superficial,so I thought this would be a return to a more simple form of storytelling,but as someone who doesn't rock-climb and a film with Franco front and center,I'll see it next year or something.
  • Sarah
    This may sound sort of like a callous remark, but I hope it doesn't come across that way because I certainly don't intend it as such. But, here it goes: since we know Ralston survives, and because we have seen his story before on talk shows and newspaper articles, etc., how much do you think that contributed to your experience with viewing the film? It's hard to feel true anxiety when we know after 127 hours, he makes it out. Not to say his experience wasn't harrowing and that it isn't a strong message of a human desire for survivalism, which is why I hope this doesn't sound callous. Just, realistic.
  • qzee
    The impression I get, particularly from the video commentary posted along with this piece, is, like the guy from /Film said, you wanted a more traditional, entirely dramatic presentation. Or at the very least, were EXPECTING that. I think that the film wasn't that threw you for a loop. If you plan on seeing it again, which I would recommend, I'd probably take that account more to heart because it just seems like the film suffered (for you) from not meeting your expectations and I don't know if you can blame the film for it not being what you wanted it to be in that regard.
  • LINKFX
    people that go into movies with expectations are always let down...honestly, it's really bad to have expectations for anything in general, as a rule to living a good life, not just experiencing good cinema.
  • Slan Man
    I can hear Boyle now: "It needs more Bollywood, more Bollywood".

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