I’ve rarely enjoyed a film as much as I enjoyed ‘Drive’.
Is it down to Ryan Gosling’s beauty? Yes. Is it down to the taut writing, the 80′s stylings which magically fit perfectly well into the present day? Yes, yes. What got me above all though was just how perfect a noir thriller this was, fulfilling all the conventions with grace, attitude and dark humour. The scenes of ultra violence will without question offend some (I was genuinely shocked twice in this film, and I’m hard to shock), but I loved every minute of it; as far as I’m concerned it was note perfect.
Car mechanic Gosling works part-time as a film stunt driver, but at night he acts as getaway driver for criminals. It’s easy money for someone emotionally detached from the world around him, but his priorities change when he falls in love with his neighbour Carey Mulligan, single parenting while her husband is in jail, and the two of them enjoy a brief period of happy ‘family’ life. Enter her husband Oscar Isaac, free and contrite, but in hock to gangsters he owes protection money to for keeping him alive in jail. With Mulligan and son Kaden Leos under threat Gosling joins him on the heist he’s being blackmailed into holding, to ensure their safety. But it all goes horribly, violently wrong.
Rooted firmly in pulp noir territory the ending is never in doubt (and no that’s not a spoiler), but director Nicolas Winding Refn has you rooting for the stunt-driver-with-no-name (toothpic permanently in mouth and everything) to defeat villainous Ron Perlman (chewing every single scene he’s in right up) and Albert Brooks, who delivers such an accomplished performance as a villain you’re left wondering what he was doing wasting a career in comedy. Gosling may be a crook but is without doubt the hero, and the tension in this dichotomy gives the film its energy (and the actor has no difficulty at all balancing his character’s criminality and heroism). But every performance is sublime, from Mulligan’s bad boy magnet single mother, to Gosling’s likeable but desperate boss Bryan Cranston, through to Gosling himself, owning the screen with just a look more convincingly than anyone since Clint Eastwood; this really is a classic in the making.
Screenwriter Hossein Amini delivers a highly emotional and challenging film by steadfastly refusing to adhere to a single Hollywood convention – it’s an intelligent film, which presumes its audience has a brain and wants to use it. Unashamedly minimalist from start to finish, with only sparse bursts of dialogue, the moments of extreme violence (which those fazed by that sort of thing should consider before watching) carry disproportionate weight because Refn and Amini make them so unexpected. It’s proof that thoughtful, old fashioned storytelling still very much has a place in modern cinema; even the car chases which happen service the story rather than the other way around. In a fair world it would win a clutch of Oscars, but what it will (rightly) do is propel Gosling and Mulligan right to the top of the ‘A’ list. More like this please, a lot more.
I have huge reservations, but Fincher is on form right now. Will Rooney Mara be able to escape the shadow of Noomi Rapace though? We’ll find out in December it seems.
Far and away the funniest and most enjoyable film of the year, bar none. I haven’t laughed like that in years, and it’s down to two things: writer/director John Michael McDonagh’s vicious, yet well-observed script, and lead Brendan Gleeson’s towering performance. The film at times veers pretty close to Father Ted territory – almost surreal characters mixed with humour so un-politically correct even the EDL would shriek – but as a whole it’s an awful lot more shrewd (and the humour blacker) than it seems at the start. Guarda cop Gleeson investigates a murder on the sleepy west coast of Ireland, which turns out to be connected to a drug smuggling operation led by Liam Cunningham & henchman Mark Strong. But it’s when FBI man Don Cheadle arrives to lead the larger investigation that Gleeson’s ascerbic nature has consequences – his rampant racism for starters. But is Gerry Boyle really the one-note character he initially seems?
The bad guys lose, the good guys win (notably after a totally ridiculous Western shoot-out), but not as you might expect, and it’s to McDonagh’s credit that your expectations are screwed with from start to (literally) finish. Gleeson’s Boyle is a whore loving, drug taking, racist slob, who’d rather bark complaints about his coffee and steal drugs from dead joyriders than follow orders. Yet his sense of integrity and natural justice is far more solid and true than any of his colleagues – bend and break the rules he may (particularly in his friendship with an IRA gunrunner), but he does know how to get the job done. It’s difficult to do the subtle humour justice, nor the way in which it succeeds in transforming a bog standard buddy movie into something very special indeed.
I haven’t really mentioned Don Cheadle yet, largely because he’s little more than a device for Boyle’s character development. Trotting around the sleepy Irish community in which he finds himself, he too (but unintentionally) causes the same offence we call Boyle out so easily on, with equally amusing results. But he’s not alone in brilliant support – Mark (what film isn’t he the baddy in?) Strong’s turn as a philosophising drug smuggler has to be seen to be believed. Taken together they comprise a complex film masquerading as slapstick comedy – by far the most intelligent comedy I’ve seen in years. But at the end of the day it’s Brendan Gleeson’s show – he doesn’t just chew up the scenery, he devours the entire set. Admirably executive produced by Cheadle, it’s the sort of film you could never get out of the US. Gleeson should get award after award for this, whilst McDonagh has no doubt an even brighter future.
With a cast like this how can anyone not be really really excited? And check out who the director is…
I’m quite surprised by the tone of this. The surprise reboot seems to have ever more surprises up its sleeve. So strange to think we have another year to wait!
One of the worst films I’ve ever seen. Ever. I should point out that I’m not going to write a very long review for this pretentious load of crap because I walked out of it after 25 minutes, but I will give the reasons why.
Brad Pitt & wife Jessica Chastain lose one of their sons in the 1950s. It’s never explained how but he dies in his youth, and the aftermath is anguish, sadness, loss and pain. You know this because the music tells you, the shots of an odd afterlife and trees and the sky tell you; there aren’t any scenes as such. Cut to 2011 and the remaining sibling has grown up into Sean Penn, whom we see on the anniversary of his brother’s death. We know this because he’s sad. There’s no dialogue, we see lots of sunshine, trees and shots of Penn in an Armani suit in the afterlife himself. He mulls things over, he’s sad and anguished even now. Cut through to the beginning of time, with vocal appeals to God by Chastain. I left when writer-director Terrence Malik got as far as the dinosaurs, taking what felt like forever to make a very easy point that life goes on and always has!
There were no scenes, there was no plot, and whilst I have since learned that scenes and plot do appear after the horrifically self-indulgent musings over life, God and the meaning of existence (which did have astonishing cinematography), I don’t regret walking out at all. Art should of course make you think, and should try to provoke, but I do expect a film I watch to have a plot, a beginning, a middle and an end. I also have no interest in watching a blatant, overly pious religion fest. Malik’s arrogance is quite astounding, and I would encourage everyone who reads this review to avoid this pompous, patronising, self-important film like the plague.
1/10 (because the cinematography was so impressive)
Here’s the counterpoint to Captain America: Ryan Reynolds looks the part, Martin Campbell is an excellent action director (when he’s in the mood), and even DC co-publisher Geoff Johns – the ongoing book’s writer – is on board. But it’s a complete waste of time – all for nothing. The film is a garbled mess, it has no unique selling points, and noone clearly thought whether the highly successful comic property would work at all well as a film franchise. The moment where Hal’s mask is first seen in public drew hysterical, catty laughter in the cinema, for the few moments that people weren’t asleep from boredom or thoroughly insulted by the shoddy script and lazy acting. Martin Campbell has shown he knows how to direct blockbusters (‘Casino Royale’/'Goldeneye’), but either his eye was off the ball here or there was a far more serious series of failures. It’s not unwatchable but it is tedious, the script is terrible and far too much of what you need to know comes from endless exposition.
You know something is wrong when Blake Lively is the best actor in the film. Reynolds simply isn’t up to the task of playing a hero, but he isn’t helped by being woefully badly written. Test pilot Hal Jordan crashes his boss’ super fighter jet – he’s reckless. We know he’s reckless because we have it drummed into us every few minutes. We’re also constantly told he’s unreliable – again it’s drummed into us. Then Hal gets the ring (he doesn’t even show the slightest awe when seeing alien Abin Sur), instead just goes on admitting he’s reckless and unreliable and unworthy – we’re even given a brief flashback to prove his confidence issues come from seeing his father die. So how is this supposed to be interesting? In short it isn’t.
Hal gets a spine when he defeats Parallax (seriously – how are kids with today’s sophisticated tastes going to be remotely interested in an amorphous ‘entity of evil’?), but until that point there’s no moral centre to the film. Bruce Wayne has his revenge, Clark has his upbringing, as does Peter; Tony was just plain cool, but Hal? Hal’s not interesting, and Reynolds offers nothing to make him interesting. It’s a film which does everything it can do badly badly, but even then clearly by committee. I can’t recommend anything about it really. I went off to sleep for about 15 minutes of it. Why didn’t they bother spending more than a cursory few minutes with Sinestro (Mark Strong)?
Hint to DC: if you want us to like your heroes on film, you have to give us nobility (nope, not from Hal), tortured past (nope, not for Hal), wry humour (Thor gets it, Hal doesn’t), or a likeable everyman quality. The Corps wasn’t needed this time around – randomly including huge numbers of characters who aren’t given remotely decent screen time (Kilowog is the moral core of the Corps for example) comes across as a cynical licensing opportunity. Only the post-credits sequence with Sinestro gives any hope for the inevitable sequel, but I can’t really say I care about the prospect.
Oh this utterly and totally rules:
This is totally what Cap is supposed to be about, and should make Thor and Iron Man look like bore fests, acting as an amazing lead-in to the Avengers film next summer!
Very much a prequel and not a reboot, Michael (Kick-Ass/Layer Cake) Vaughn’s first stab at a Marvel film is hugely enjoyable. Subtly concocted, aware of the need to fix the damage done by X3, the film focuses on the relationship between Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender) and Charles Xavier (James McAvoy), and explains how their friendship was forged, as well as how their diametrically opposing worldviews led them into opposing paths. It’s not without it’s faults – McAvoy definitely plays second fiddle to Fassbender, some of the effects are needlessly ropey, and some of the mutants’ changes in allegiance are downright baffling, but its strengths more than outweigh its weaknesses. I should add though, that this is a very character-driven piece – most of the action is in the back half of the film, and I can imagine that not knowing that in advance could lead to disappointment for some.
First thing I should say is that this isn’t Kick-Ass. Although it seriously glamourises the villain of the piece, it’s a very conventional film. Set in the 60′s, it’s a romp through the early X-corner of the Marvel Universe (can Marvel please retrieve the rights to the X-films please?), and the cute period touches work well. The fashion of the time is noted, the politics underpin the film’s plotline, and Sebastian Shaw’s Bond villain-esque lair was a well considered sarcastic touch. The heart of the film though is Michael Fassbender and his transformation from Lehnsherr into Magneto. The script by Miller, Stentz, Goldman and director Vaughn never loses touch with the reasons for Lehnsherr’s hate-filled worldview and Fassbender makes it very easy to empathise with him. Towering above his co-stars, this is very much his show, but whilst that may be hugely entertaining, it causes let-downs elsewhere. McAvoy’s countervailing Xavier never really convinces – he has the lines but doesn’t give them the punch needed, and similar problems occur throughout the nascent X-Men team. Nic Hoult’s Hank McCoy is brilliant, but his Beast is downright awful (this is largely not his fault – the make-up/effects are woeful). Zoë Kravitz’s Angel may be a welcome, off-beat, street-based character, but her reasons for switching sides are never properly developed, and we never really find out much about Havok or Darwin. Disappointing too are some of the effects, particularly the miniatures – whilst they’re clearly necessary in most action movies, someone should have noticed that if it’s abundantly clear that the trees are toy trees, the entire credibility of the scene could be completely wiped out.
The confrontation with (and backstory behind) villain Sebastian Shaw is well developed (Kevin Bacon is unexpectedly brilliant), putting the Xavier/Magneto confrontation at the heart of the Cold War is even more clever, and the formation of the X-Men as a result of both is dramatically satisfying. But the film suffers from confused priorities – Fassbender’s mission of vengeance is a taut, nasty and compelling thriller, which doesn’t sit easily alongside the conventional X-superheroics which the franchise demands. McAvoy’s Xavier must then bridge the divide between plotlines, and for either script or acting reasons (it’s ultimately hard to tell), he never really manages; only after the character loses the use of his legs does he start to resemble Patrick Stewart’s Xavier. This opening outing though is full of knowing and enjoyable moments, from the links to the future (you’ll have to see them for yourself) to Fassbender’s clear joy at playing Lehnsherr/Magneto, and it’s well worth your time. If the plot had been built up entirely through the prism of Xavier/Magneto, and had been played against the parallel social changes happening in America at the same time, it could have been as great as X2. It’s not too far off though.
DC Comics’ films have been over reliant on Batman and Superman for far too long. I can’t wait for this next month – I think this trailer makes it clear it should be absolutely stunning (not to mention extremely close to the source material).
The Adjustment Bureau
I really liked this film, in large part because it turned out completely differently to what I’d expected. I was expecting hardcore sci fi and traditional Philip K Dick mindbending, less so a very traditional love story anchored by two outstanding performances and a script which the writer/director never has anything other than full control over. It’s a clever, witty sci fi romp(will Terence Stamp demand Damon kneels before him?), the chemistry between Damon and Emily Blunt is downright electric and if it doesn’t both make you think and pull at your heartstrings in the best way by its end, you’re a cold, heartless bastard.
9/10 because it’s clever, has heart and Matt Damon at his very best.
I’m not sure what all the fuss was about – although it starts with huge potential, very little of it is realised. Is it a crime drama? A semi-documentary look at a family of criminals? A morality play? It’s never clear and quite frankly it’s an annoying failure. It takes a very long time to get to a very obvious ending, and it might have been wiser to have given Guy Pearce (without whom the film would never have been made) a role which actually mattered to the narrative.
There’s far too little substance and far too much padding, and when the actors are called to up the ante it never quite comes together. Most of the performances are quite impressive – Jacki Weaver in particular, but the film loses its way for no apparent reason, largely because James Frecheville’s central character’s motivations and behaviour rarely make sense.
5/10 but largely because of its potential than what it manages to do.
Battle: Los Angeles
Don’t expect any attempts to reinvent the wheel in this wholly by-the-numbers humans v aliens war movie. Good lead Aaron Eckhart may be, but he’s better than his material. Having said that it’s a fun look at interstellar war from the grunts’ point of view, although the movie is about nothing else than the fighting. There’s a bit of irritating jingoism thrown in, but no attempts at characterisation other than that. Enjoy it for what it is rather than what it isn’t. The SFX is pretty good, the adrenaline high it offers is pretty cool, and you never care about a single character. It’s largest fault is indeed an absence of charm.
7/10 because it’s fun rather than because it has anything to say about anything really.
A great and occasionally inspiring attempt to dramatise the grudge match between Ambassador Joe Wilson, his wife Valerie Plame and the Bush White House. It comes across as stridently left wing, but it’s adapted from the couple’s own accounts of the actions of Scooter Libby, Karl Rove (presumably) and potentially higher up in outing Plame as an undercover CIA agent (a serious criminal offence). The acting is top notch, particularly by Naomi Watts, and it’s a brave attempt to inject an element of suspense into an otherwise suspense-free story. Ultimately although it’s a slightly outdated indictment of the rampant criminality at the heart of the Bush Administration, it’s quite depressing and the ending is painful – citizen activism to keep the republic true to its founding principles isn’t exactly working, is it?
8/10 because it’s extremely worthy, even though it clearly knows it.
The Lincoln Lawyer
A delightful, back-to-the-basics courtroom drama, showcasing Matthew McConaughey at his best in nearly 15 years. Ryan Philippe is his client who may or may not have attempted to murder a call girl. But what does McConaughey do when it turns out Philippe has been killing and framing people for years, and then starts to move on to McConaughey himself? The acting and writing are top notch – cinema has needed more material like this for some years, and it doesn’t hurt that the stars are very pretty indeed…
9/10 because films should all be this fun, and not grim & gritty like The American all the time.
Guess what? No spoiler warning, and this is because whatever I write there’s no point in warning about spoilers – a five year old could have written this script in their sleep. It’s obvious and clichéd – a cynical mashing together of most emo/teen shows and movies, clearly configured to boost the still undeveloped film career of Alex Pettyfer. Don’t get me wrong – Pettyfer on screen is as breathtakingly beautiful as he is in his regular photoshoots by K Z Feng, but Pettyfer the actor retains the shortcomings he’s had since his teens. In short he’s not that bad at superheroics, underused on angsty emoting and just plain awful at dramatic acting – he should have been used as an ersatz RPatz but wasn’t, and this is the film’s chief failing.
Pettyfer plays John Smith or Number Four – one of nine alien children sent to earth to escape the genocide inflicted on their parents, alongside his guardian Timothy Olyphant. They must stay one step ahead of their grotesque enemies or face oblivion, all the while remaining off the radar. Naturally this is impossible for someone as beautiful as Pettyfer and the chase is on as he and his mentor settle in the town of Paradise, Ohio. The now chiseled, adult Pettyfer settles into the local high school, and for the first two thirds of the film we have to endure every cliché in the book – the obvious bully, his obvious bully father, the love interest (Dianna Agron – proving she has little more range than in ‘Glee’) and the geek (Callan McAuliffe, who cutely steals most of the show away from the overly promoted leads). Of course Number Four gets drawn into conflicts which reveal his presence in Paradise and which give away his nature to his peers. Of course his on-again-off-again romance with Agron goes somewhere, and anyone could easily chart the course of all his relationships in this film. And his relationships are baffling, because in addition to the script’s numerous failings (Alfred Gough & Miles Millar from ‘Smallville’ should be ashamed) Pettyfer walks around doing little other than looking moody, with an emotion-free stare, seemingly concentrating more on his American accent (which isn’t that bad) than actually acting.
If director DJ Caruso had just asked him to emote more (RPatz style) with his shirt off most of the time rather than just (an enjoyable) part of the time, it might have helped the film not feel so totally confused and unfocused. Pettyfer doesn’t look like a teen anymore, the nod to America’s terrorism meme is awkward and unbelievable, and the lead-ins to the inevitable confrontation with his enemies are tough to swallow. It’s unsurprising to see the hand of Michael Bay as producer, pushing style over substance (why is Pettyfer never asked to show any believable emotional response to anything, and how hamfisted is the introduction of Number Six (Teresa Palmer)?), even bringing the class geek’s (McAuliffe) penchant for the extraterrestrial very much in line with a certain Mr LaBeouf’s. Yet it’s actually his role as sidekick (he’s even named Sam), which saves ‘I Am Number Four’ from becoming straight-to-video schlock , adding a certain amount of charm, although the superheroic battles in the back end of the film are pretty good, and it’s clear that if the film had been better thought out (whoever thought Olyphant’s casting or role could be taken seriously?) it could have been both more consistent and more fun. It may not be worth your money at the cinema, but it’s also not as hideously bad as it starts out seeming.
Another film from Hollywood without even a winking understanding of the double entendre in its title, and for the most part it’s downhill from there. That’s not to say that the film doesn’t have funny moments or that there’s no enjoyment to be had from it at all, but you have to know going in that this is pure formula – it’s an attempt to cross Princess Diaries with Devil Wears Prada and all other rom-com/feel-good movies in an attempt to boost lead Rachel McAdams’ profile. Let me say right now that’s not a good thing – she’s skull-crushingly awful. It’s hard to judge who she’s trying to channel the worst – Reese Witherspoon? Anne Hathaway? It’s so hard to tell and it’s so knowing from the outset it’s impossible to warm to her. It’s far from the only lax shortcut director Roger Michell takes, and it’s a shame because somewhere buried in screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna’s script is a good idea.
McAdams is a cutesy live TV producer from nowheres-ville who unexpectedly gets a shot at the big time in New York city. Tasked with somehow rejuvenating the daytime show from hell, she fires the existing male presenter and replaces him with all-time-great journalist Harrison Ford, whose TV career has fallen on hard times. The predictable clashes occur – Ford with McAdams, Ford with co-presenter Diane Keaton, until inevitably his hard heart softens because McAdams wants what’s best for him and, well, everyone really. Smarmy? You bet, but the script does touch on a valuable argument about high vs low culture in American media. Ford’s rebellion is fuelled by his anger at no longer being required for old fashioned high class TV journalism, while McAdams is forced to acknowledge (and teach him) that their continued employment in today’s market depends entirely on what sells. It’s a curious parallel with Ford’s own career, and you can’t help but be left wondering what he feels he has to do to rehabilitate his former high-flying career.
Ultimately the hard bitten old pro manages to trick McAdams into broadcasting a major scoop, and at the last minute he in turn is convinced to compromise and cook live on telly, out of respect for his oh-so-lovable boss. It’s entirely predictable (as are all of her annoying ups and downs) but the thoroughly formulaic presentation of the first half is replaced but a punchier, funnier second half, which at least takes a small handful of risks, and which allow the conclusion not to be entirely painful. It’s a shame that more isn’t made of the ascerbic relationship between Ford and Keaton (who gets far too little screen time), indeed that Ford’s character isn’t better written. The opportunities for him to channel a Sue (‘Glee’) Sylvester-type attitude were there in abundance but sadly never taken, leaving the real world hard bitten old pro coming across well, but nowhere near as well as he could have.
It’s a film with little charm and countless wasted opportunities but it’s not without its moments. I can’t really recommend it for the cinema, but it’ll be great to pass the time on planes…
If Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush hadn’t been in this movie it might have come across as a nice but highly predictable British period drama, with the inevitably irritating, saccharine formula and the predictably uplifting conclusion. But Firth as King George VI and Rush as his Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue grab their roles and fire them up with incredible intelligence, honesty and likeability. The film skirts over difficult areas – the rise of Hitler and the constitutional crisis caused by Edward’s (Guy Pearce) relationship with Wallis Simpson never really affect the tone of the film – it’s rather Firth who makes their impact on Albert/George clear. A man instructed never to show emotion, Firth masterfully shows the highly emotional undercurrent afflicting the future King, and it’s a powerhouse performance. Most of the rest of the cast is enjoyable but little more – Helena Bonham Carter as Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon is there for little more than gentle comedic value, Derek Jacobi is amusing as the conniving Archbishop Cosmo Lang, but little more than a caricature, whilst the aforementioned Pearce is downright miscast as the hapless Edward VIII, who plays Firth’s playboy brother as little more than a party-loving dandy.
To its credit the film focuses on the relationship between Bertie and Logue, and it’s a brilliant partnership, one of the best I’ve seen in film – Logue uninterested in bowing and scraping to a man born into (and who can only comprehend) privilege, with his royal counterpart torn between the life he was groomed for and his inability to cope emotionally with it. The ups and downs they face together say a great deal about their characters, but screenwriter David Seidler also uses them to convey the changes racing ahead in society around them. What is the need for the stiff-upper-lip royalty in an increasingly modern world, where even his brother is more interested in marrying for love than for duty? As history accelerates and Bertie’s accession to the throne becomes ever more likely, we see him confronting the effects his brother’s bullying and his parents’ disinterest in him had on him. It’s a highly contemporary story, which lifts the production from being a mere period drama, and Firth above all gets it.
It’s not a perfect film by any means. The formula comes straight from Working Title, the liberties taken with history are a disappointment, but Firth’s George VI is one of the all-time-great royal performances in screen history. At once he embodies a man utterly unknowable but at the same time deeply sympathetic, but he wouldn’t have been half as interesting or as enjoyable without Rush as Logue – a failed actor pushing against Britain’s class system, yet eager to be accepted by it. It’s to his enormous credit that he keeps those issues in balance with at least an equal humour and intelligence to Firth’s. Their final, make-or-break collaboration – managing Bertie’s first wartime address to the nation – is a sheer delight which will get you cheering in your seat. Rush almost actually conducts the anxious King’s speech, but this subtext shouldn’t be a surprise – director Tom Hooper shoots the entire film with enormous sensitivity to the power of set design and cinematography.
With its clever script, smart direction and sharp design, ‘The King’s Speech’ deserves a whole slew of awards; above all it’s inconceivable that Firth won’t walk away with a long-deserved Oscar.
I can’t really say there are spoilers because what happens in the film is, by now, well known and a matter of public record. James Franco, also soon to be seen in ‘Howl’, is on somewhat of a roll, here playing real life climber Aron Ralston who, in 2003 got his arm trapped by a boulder in the desert and had to cut it off to save his own life. That’s basically it – that’s all the film is about – nothing else happens. But this isn’t the bore fest that was ‘Buried’ – director Danny Boyle and screenwriter Simon Beaufoy deliver an impressive character study with the visual flair and energy you’d expect of the ‘Trainspotting’ and ‘Sunshine’ director. Franco/Ralston starts off a nice but cocky adventurer, who for reasons known only to him, trecked into the Utah Desert without a mobile phone or telling anyone where he was going, leaving him in mortal peril when he became trapped by the boulder. Within a few days, facing death by dehydration or exposure, he’s forced to resort to drinking his own urine but even that won’t tide him over for very long, and there are no rescuers coming…
Franco delivers an acting masterclass in showing what happened next – the delirium, the desperation, the anger, despair, acceptance of his eventual fate all framed by the messages he left for his friends and family, before he decided at the very last moment to cut his own arm off as the only means of survival.
Where ‘Buried’ completely avoided any believable character development, ’127 Hours’ suggests a great deal changed for Ralston during his ordeal. A rescuer with a cocky arrogance and issues about his own independence and family relationships, Boyle’s film suggests he was driven to do the unthinkable (and it is a barely watchable sequence) by his acceptance whilst essentially in solitary confinement that he had a responsibility to his parents and family, and in his delirium he even apparently saw the child he was destined to have in the future. It’s by no means perfect – nothing actually happens after all – you wait the better part of 90 minutes for the inevitable to happen. Ralston isn’t presented initially as a character worth much emotional investment in either – so he gets trapped by his own reckless stupidity – why should I care? It’s to Franco’s credit that you do in any measure.
It works very well as a triumph of the spirit movie, but given that much of it is framed around Ralston’s famed self-shot videos during his ordeal, you’re left wondering what the real ones (which Ralston has refused anyone access to) are like. The style is so also pseudo-documentary (with an entirely predictable MTV flavour thrown in) you aren’t even given much of a chance to emotionally invest in Ralston/Franco, at least until the film arrives at the arm-cutting moment. It’s perhaps unsurprising that Ralston is more interesting after his self-mutilation than before, but Franco clearly oes every trick in the book to make him likeable throughout, and to transform which might otherwise have been a very dull script into an interesting journey.
’127 Hours’ isn’t an all-time-great film by any means, nor is it one of Boyle’s best – it’s far closer in tone to the insubstantial ‘The Beach’ – but it’s a great step forward for Franco and serves as an excellent Sunday night film. Not much more than that though.