Despite being one of the worst Oscar hosts ever, James Franco actually gave us one of 2010’s best performances. That performance came in Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours. The film was shut out at the Oscars but that doesn’t mean it should be overlooked. Sticking true to his style, Boyle provides a mesmerizing and moving film that will stick with audiences long after they have left the theatres. Now that the film is on Blu-Ray, it’s time to take a look back at it, even though its November release wasn’t too long ago. Is the film as effective on Blu-Ray as it was in theatres? Read on to find out.
127 Hours is based on the real life story of Aron Ralston, played here by James Franco. I’m sure everyone and their mother knows Aron’s story but for those who have been living under a rock (no pun intended) for the past few years, I’ll try to keep things spoiler free. In 2003, Ralston went hiking in the Blue John Canyon. While hiking, his arm became pinned down by a boulder, leaving him unable to move. Having not told anyone where he was before he left, and without a soul in sight, Ralston knew he had very little chance of survival. After 127 hours with little to no food and water, Ralston decides to make a drastic choice that he hopes will help save his life.
As you can tell, the film, for the most part, is just one person and one setting. Aron pinned down by the boulder. To most, this would seem uninteresting and a tad bit boring. Perhaps a good chance to catch up on some much needed shut eye. But in the hands of Danny Boyle, the film becomes a dramatic film that beautifully displays the will to survive, the celebration of life and the tenacious nature of the human spirit. It’s a magnificent film that by the end, will leave you either applauding or crying, or both.
Franco leads what is more or less a one man show and he does a tremendous job. Without co-stars to lean on, Franco takes us through a wide range of emotions flawlessly. Franco is compulsively watchable in the role, and even in the most harrowing scenes, we are compelled to watch even though all we want to do is turn away. His captivating work here is exemplary as he makes you feel every second of his torture. He may have been a terrible Oscar host but his Oscar nomination was much deserved.
Boyle’s direction is magnificent, as expected. The man behind such classics as Slumdog Millionaire and Trainspotting, returns here in full form, at the top of his game. His directing style is unique and never less than perfect. He manages to turn confinement and tedium into an adrenaline rush that will leave you breathless. Boyle’s ambitious and inspired direction keeps the movie flowing at a perfect pace and manages to keep us riveted despite having an immobile protagonist.
Making things better, Boyle enlists cinematographers Anthony Dod Mantle and Enrique Chediak to give us some magnificent and truly gorgeous cinematography that superbly contrasts the vast Utah desert with the small, confined tomb that Aron is stuck in. Mixed with Boyle’s visual mastery, the cinematography provides for a real visual treat.
If I had to fault the film, I really wouldn’t be able to say much. Boyle’s excessive use of flashbacks/hallucinations does get to be a bit too much, and his hyperkinetic style may put some people off. Especially due to the subject material, some may cry flagrant on Boyle’s visual gimmicks and others will tire of his self-indulgent camera tricks. Personally, I felt they were a bit distracting but really didn’t take away too much from the film. Aside from that though, the film is pretty much flawless, on all accounts.
As you can probably guess, this is a film that is enhanced greatly on Blu-Ray. Thanks to the wonderful transfer, 127 Hours looks and sounds fantastic. Boyle’s striking visuals shine through with rich and vibrant colours that practically hop off the screen. The grandiose cinematography is more than easy on the eyes and the picture on the whole has a great sense of clarity and crispness to it. It comes off as vivid and sharp. Contrast is equally as strong as are black levels, both coming off great. A bit of grain here and there is present but it’s never too distracting and fleshtones aren’t always on the ball but most people probably won’t even notice. Overall, this is near demo material and it’s stunning to look at.
The audio is also superb. A.R. Rahman’s percussive score mixes in perfectly and dialogue is reproduced clearly. Ambient sound effects ease their way into the track and great range is present throughout. The music used here all sounds rich and powerful and the sound effects, especially the one used in ‘the scene’ is particularly jarring. There is nothing jaw dropping here and your surrounds won’t get much of a work out but it’s still a very fitting audio track. Like the video, this is near demo material and really has very little wrong with it.
Special features include:
- Audio Commentary from Director Danny Boyle, producer Christian Colson, and co-writer Simon Beaufoy.
- Deleted Scenes
- Search & Rescue
- 127 Hours: An Extraordinary View
- Short Film – The God of Love
- BD-Live Exclusive – James Franco in Conversation with Theatre/Opera Director Peter Sellars
As usual, I’ll let you know what’s worth your time. The commentary is pretty informative and worth a listen. They cover all the bases you’d expect and it’s definitely worth checking out for anyone interested in how the film was made. The deleted scenes include an alternate ending which may be worth your time. I thought that the ending they went with was perfect but if you disagree, feel free to check out the alternate. The Search and Rescue feature gives us a look at the real life Aron and the people who aided in his rescue and eventual recovery. Lastly is the making of documentary, which despite being short (35 minutes), is quite good. It gives us a great behind the scenes look at the film and shows us some really interesting stuff, including some of the collaboration between Boyle and Franco.
Overall, 127 Hours is a winner! James Franco’s tour de force performance leads the film as Boyle and writer Simon Beaufoy craft an incredible story of the will to survive. It’s intense, gripping and harrowing but at the same time it’s beautiful, magnificent and inspiring. Not to be missed, 127 Hours is one of 2010’s best and it deserved every Oscar nomination it earned. The Blu-Ray looks fantastic and with the inclusion of a few solid features, this one is well worth your money.
Overall, 127 Hours is a winner! James Franco's tour de force performance leads the film as Boyle and writer Simon Beaufoy craft an incredible story of the will to survive. It's intense, gripping and harrowing but at the same time it's beautiful, magnificent and inspiring.