Danny Boyle has always been an indie favourite, consistently producing excellent films in many different genres. However, his films never enjoyed the box-office reach they deserved. That is, until his 2008 surprise blockbuster Slumdog Millionaire broke all expectations. It was a film that would then allow Danny Boyle to create whatever film project he wanted, with presumably whatever budget he needed.
This is a dream situation for any director, but instead of taking the opportunity to direct a massive budget film, he writes and directs, 127 Hours. The film, which tells the incredible true story of Aron Ralston, could be handled in incredibly different ways. Luckily, Boyle’s film about a man having to cut off his own arm doesn’t leave you feeling depressed, but rather it is energetic and life-affirming. The film doesn’t tone down any of the difficult aspects, in fact it throws them right in your face. However, what makes this film so fantastic, is that Boyle’s style matches Ralston’s view on life and explanation for surviving the awful ordeal.
The film begins at a furiously kinetic pace, one you would be hard pressed to find in an action film. It is a jolt to the senses and it sets the perfect mood for the film. It is not making light of a terrible situation but rather putting you in the mind set that Aron Ralston was in before the accident occurred. What makes this directorial decision so important is the fact that without understanding the kind of person he was, we couldn’t understand how he survived the awful ordeal he was in.
This is what makes Boyle perfect for the material, where another director would most likely go very minimalist, Boyle goes all out in terms of style, without ever losing the emotional connection. Boyle’s stylistic choices heighten emotional integrity where as other directors’ use of style is often just visual stimulation.
As important Boyle’s direction was to making the film great, if it were not for James Franco’s performance as Aron, the film would have failed. Franco gives one of the strongest performances of his career, if not his best. His performance could very easily have become showy and overly dramatic, yet Franco was smart enough to restrain himself until the moment called for dramatics.
It would be a real shame to forget the unsung heroes of this film, the two directors of photography; Enrique Chediak and Anthony Dod Mantle. As the film features, for the most part, one man on screen for the duration, Boyle decided to make the visuals into their own characters. To do this, he employed two fantastic directors of photography to make the visuals competing characters. As the film progressed, remembering the incredibly impressive shots became harder and harder, to a point where I lost count. The film features some of the most memorable shots of Boyle’s career, many of which leave you wondering how they possibly accomplished them.
Danny Boyle has made a career of films about men who are pushed to their absolute limits, yet the films always leave you feeling better than when you arrived. He does not muddy his films with sentimentality or out of place scenes to make the audience feel better, but his films still leave you feeling an energy for life. It is his talent of finding the strength within people and his natural ability to present it to us that makes his films so powerful. 127 Hours is one of the rare films that leaves an audience in their seats during the credits, and for many, even after the credits are done their scroll.