127 Hours,

Pasatiempo - - Moving Images -

with a smile on his face and makes friends eas­ily. An­tic­i­pat­ing his demise, his ma­jor re­grets are not promptly re­turn­ing his mother’s phone calls and once hav­ing what seems like a mu­tual breakup with a girl­friend. There isn’t ex­actly high drama to mine there.

Vis­ually, there’s more to take in than one would ex­pect. Even though the story takes place al­most en­tirely in that nar­row canyon, the film packs a vis­ceral punch. Boyle cat­a­pulted into the big time with 1996’s Trainspot­ting, which es­tab­lished ex­u­ber­ant en­ergy and re­lent­less stim­uli as his call­ing card. He book­ends 127 Hours with joy­ful shots of large crowds around the globe, show­cas­ing the world that Ral­ston dis­ap­pears from and draw­ing con­trast to the iso­la­tion in which Ral­ston finds him­self. Boyle also gives Ral­ston flash­backs and hal­lu­ci­na­tions, in­cor­po­rates a vis­ual pun in the form of ScoobyDoo (don’t ask), and makes use of the cam­corder Ral­ston has with him to pro­vide changes in the film’s look and ap­proach.

And yet, all of this dress­ing also un­der­mines the ma­te­rial. We never quite feel like we’re trapped in the canyon with our pro­tag­o­nist, be­cause Boyle keeps re­mind­ing us that we’re not. It’s a Catch-22: we’re never un­aware that we’re watch­ing a movie, but if that weren’t the case, then the movie would be un­bear­able to watch. Boyle has a ten­dency to­ward bla­tant ma­nip­u­la­tion, and it some­times comes across as if he doesn’t trust his own story. For ex­am­ple, Ral­ston’s hike back to safety should have been a tri­umphant moment with­out need of added flair, but Boyle boosts the scene with a loud and al­most com­i­cally rous­ing piece of mu­sic. To his credit, the di­rec­tor han­dles the am­pu­ta­tion scene taste­fully, show­ing enough that you’ll cringe with­out ac­tu­ally show­ing the grisly act it­self.

Boyle’s in­stincts as a writer — he adapted his script from Ral­ston’s book Be­tween a Rock and a Hard Place, along with co-writer Simon Beau­foy — serve him bet­ter. While Boyle fails to in­voke the horror of the predica­ment, he suc­ceeds in con­vey­ing the un­usual cir­cum­stance of be­ing in the prime of your life and hav­ing five days to

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