127 Hours Review

This was a film I had looked forward to for a long time. When the reports fist came through of a climber who had been trapped under a rock, and was reduced to cutting off his arm to survive, it seemed like a story of such suffering and triumph that a movie seemed inevitable.

James Franco takes on the role of Arlon Ralston, an extreme sports junkie who takes one wrong move, and ends up with his arm trapped under a boulder. He spends the next five days trying to escape, and in the end it seems that only a pair of pliers and a blunt knife is the only possible solution. Franco is utterly convincing, and considering the selfish nature of his character, we really don’t want to see him hurt.  His charm really comes through in what are essentially Vlogs of the situation, recorded the actually camera Ralston himself used, and we can feel only sympathy for his plight.

127 Hours doesn’t feel like we are being told the story from Aaron’s perspective , but rather some force looking over him. The film often swoops over to other locations, and uses very obtrusive sound to scream the situation into your brain. This is the first soundtrack since Trainspotting I might consider buying.  His hallucinations are outward rather that inner looking, and this really keeps the pace going. Considering this is a movie mostly set in ten feet of rock, anything can happen next. He takes what it such a simply concept, and turns it an exploration of any human being stuck in a jam, without ever losing sight of telling the story.  The broken relationship Ralston keeps thinking back to doesn’t really have an impact on the narrative, but is something we can all relate to.

Danny Boyle is turning into the master of the intro.  From the word go the camera is swooping off all over the world, from a football stadiums to a camera lens.  It feels much more like Boyle’s early work, and has a nineties-feeling, indie edge that only adds to the grittiness.  This is more Shallow Grave than Slumdog Millionaire.

I have waited for this movie for eight years, and it has kicked off 2011 to a great start.  Those of you that can’t bear the sight of blood may want to watch half of it through your fingers, but Danny Boyle has gone back to his roots to pull off a classic, and this should have been his first Oscar.

10/10

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Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of The Dawn Treader Review

The Narnia trilogy have been a strange series of films. They have never received the prestige bestowed on Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, and have suffered from criticism of their Christian themes. With Disney pulling out of co-producing, and at the time of writing Dawn Treader is slipping down the box office, the continuation of the series seems in the balance.

The plot follows Edmund and Lucy from the first two films, and their obnoxious cousin Eustace, as they splash down in to Narnia aboard The Dawn Treader. A new evil has arrived, and it’s up to them to bring peace to the land once again.

What narrative there is sticks together, but its real problem is the lack of any true threat. The main baddie is nothing more than an evil mist, and despite claiming to make your worst nightmares come true, in reality seems to deal more with minor insecurities. The peril never gets beyond Saturday morning cartoon level, and this is the series planting its flag purely in the children’s market.  This is not necessarily a bad thing, but must be judged as such.

As with Harry Potter, the franchise got lucky with its child actors. Prince Caspian is a bit of a wet blanket, but Reepicheep and the other Narnians are very strong . Eustace could so easily have just been silly, but has real moments of humour that shine through.  The best part of the Narnia films have always been the special effects and this instalment is no exception. Aslan looks better than ever, and there is a real weight and life to all the talking animals. Dawn Treader may be light, but it builds a great atmosphere. The editing seems a little choppy in places, but the whole “islands with different dangers” archetype is a strong one, and really works. If only there was little more risk to the adventures, and this could have been a top notch picture.

This is very light fare, but good special effects and  a half decent plot keep it going .This film is not a classic, and not even the best of the series. But as an enjoyable Christmas movie, it’s worth checking out.

6/10