127 Hours stars the ever hilarious James
Falco Franco, whose recent appearance as an Oscar host was especially impressive considering he did it all while asleep. To be honest I hadn’t really seen much of James Franco before despite the fact that everyone these days seems to love him, I didn’t even notice he was an actual actor until he got an Oscar nomination: previously I think I had only seen him in Spider-Man and the first few minutes of Pineapple Express (I thought I could tolerate Seth Rogen but soon realised I was wrong). With these credentials I obviously assumed that 127 Hours would be a comedy – maybe a stoner comedy where people say dude a lot – but by the end of the movie I was beginning to suspect it wasn’t a comedy at all.
So, I think it is fair to say the film could use a few more laughs. James Franco is struggling to really make anything of the material he is given which mostly just has him suffering down a hole on his own. Clearly, this is a situation with a lot of comic potential but I think the writers missed most of the best opportunities: why introduce Scooby-Doo if he is not given anything hilarious to do? He doesn’t even say ‘ruh-roh’. It’s possible a lot of the best jokes will be saved for Danny Boyle’s director’s cut, but here’s an idea for the sequel: pair him up with Anne Hathaway again, the two of them are comedy gold. In ‘127 Hours 2’ I would envisage that James gets his other hand stuck under a rock while Anne gets her feet trapped under a tree trunk. Although actually Anne Hathaway would probably drive you insane too quickly with her incessant cheerfulness. You’d maybe get to day three but then she’d start singing again and you’d just have to dash your brains out against the cliffs.
In all seriousness, it’s a good film and James Franco does earn his acting chops here – I suspect there are some intermediate steps I didn’t watch yet but this is a giant leap up from his stint as Harry Osbourne and probably was deserving of an Oscar nomination. It’s a similar role to Ryan Reynolds in ‘Buried’ – both films have very little movement and are really character studies, though Buried is far more claustrophobic because it never cuts away from the coffin that Ryan Reynolds is in. 127 Hours approaches a similar situation in a different way: there are numerous cuts in flashbacks and dreams, effectively allowing the camera to get out of the hole. I am not sure which film’s technique was more effective, certainly 127 Hours plays on your emotions more, the score and the editing really tugs on your heartstrings.
One interesting twist is that in 127 Hours you already know what happens at the end. Or at least, I did and the publicity for the film and reviews seem happy to give away the ending because it is based on a book written by the guy who really went through this ordeal. I’m not going to spoil it for those of you that have been living under a rock (get it?) but suffice to say that it didn’t impact my enjoyment of the film to know what was coming. The end of the film had me shedding a couple of manly tears (strong men also cry) but I think this was due to the really quite effective use of the score and editing as much as the story or the acting – it’s really quite mercilessly well directed and though it doesn’t have the existential awe of Danny Boyle’s epic ‘Sunshine’ it occasionally evokes the same feelings and emotions, albeit on a smaller scale. Interestingly, in my favourite Murakami book “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles” there is a story about a soldier that gets left to die at the bottom of a well, and just like in 127 Hours, everyday there is a brief moment when the sun rises to such an angle that it reaches him. In the book this becomes a spiritual experience, probably because the well is deeper and darker than the cliffs. I am not sure what the relevance here is except that they should really make more Murakami books into films. And although the whole dieing from dehydration thing must suck, I do have an urge to go and sit at the bottom of a hole somewhere in the middle of nowhere for a few days and see how it goes.
I’m going to have to say that I preferred Buried overall, even though 127 Hours was undoubtedly more powerful. Buried was intriguing with it’s mystery and puzzle elements, plus it was technically impressive to see a film set within such constraints. 127 Hours is possibly more satisfying overall, and as I say – it feels more important because it uses every trick in the book to play on your emotions: it’s life affirming and tear-jerking and all that jazz, though it is rarely excessively flashy or sentimental. Buried is far less emotive and because of this it seems like the lesser film, but I am not sure that is fair. Oh just watch both, it’s not like there is some limit on the number of films you can watch where a guy is stuck in a thing: personally I am hoping that we get to see one with James McAvoy trapped in a washing machine stuck on spin cycle for a month. Can’t stand that guy.