REVIEW ROUND UP: ’127 Hours’ at Telluride

Another day, another possible Best Picture contender gets a festival release in Telluride, Colorado. Danny Boyle enjoyed Oscar glory with his 2008 film Slumdog Millionaire, which opened at the Telluride and Toronto Film Festival to almost unanimous raves. With the same slated release schedule for his next film, the Boyle camp is hoping that 127 Hours will follow the same trajectory.

127 Hours had its U.S. premiere yesterday in Telluride and the initial response is ecstatic. Online and print critics are praising the film as one of Boyle’s best and most unique in his remarkably diverse canon. Praise that is being heaped on the film is not only reserved for Boyle as Franco and the technical team are receiving accolades as well.

Gregory Ellwood of HitFix is one of the first to imply that the film has serious Oscar chances and he clears up any concern that the moments of isolation could be construed as boring:

This sequence of the film could have been claustrophobic and monotonous, but Boyle’s keen eye instead fixate on how isolated Alston is from the rest of the world.  Our hero may be trapped, but it’s the loneliness you feel more from a distance than any sense of impending collapse.  Through failed trial and error and with his water and food gone, Alston has a vision (true account) that spurns him to make a dramatic choice to live.  How Boyle shoots this part of the picture is harrowing and intense and will no doubt disturb many viewers even though it could have been much more graphic in the wrong hands (and that didn’t stop someone from fainting during the Telluride premiere). It’s this moment, and Alston’s subsequent walk to civilization that the film reaches a moving climax that would have been unforeseen through the film’s energetic opening.  It’s a cinematic climax left this writer both moved and shaken, a rarity in this business to say the least.

Peter Sciretta of /Film has few criticisms of the film in his 9.5 out of 10 star review. I didn’t glean much from his review besides the fact that the movie is fantastic:

127 Hours is a brilliant, gut-wrenching and moving cinematic experience. The film will have you in tears one moment, laughing the next, and will leave you on the edge of your seat, gripping the armrests and holding your breath. This is an uplifting story of perseverance with a stronger character arc than the best fictional films released this year. This is not just a story of man vs. nature or survival. Ralston has said that he “did not lose his hand” but instead “gained his life back.” Most importantly, this is THAT story.

John Horn of 24 Frames, The L.A. Times Film Blog, reported on the audience reaction to the screening of the film that was described as “an action movie where the hero doesn’t move.”

Many tears were shed at the world premiere screening of “127 Hours” at the Telluride Film Festival on Saturday afternoon. But few in the audience of some 500 cried harder than Aron Ralston, the hiker who famously cut off his right forearm and is the subject of director Danny Boyle’s new movie.

Eugene Novikov of Cinematical gives his highest praise to Franco who he credits with creating all of the film’s squeamishness:

James Franco, who is on screen alone for the vast majority of the film’s short running time, is perfectly cast and excellent. A lot of 127 Hours‘ medical-procedure-like squeamishness actually comes from him – e.g. his look of stunned incomprehension as the dust settles and he first beholds his arm crushed under a boulder, and his still-disbelieving frustration as he realizes that it ain’t gonna come loose. (The utter helplessness he feels is clearly new for him.) As things start looking dire, his pain and heartbreak are palpable. Watch his eyes as he videotapes his first message, informing the world that he’s “in pretty deep doo doo here.” It’s the look of someone whose world has just been rocked in the most profound way imaginable.

A.O. Scott via Awards Daily give his initial response to the film and he proves that the online critics’ opinion will not be the minority one:

His experience is disconcerting enough just to think about, and to see it recreated, in Mr. Boyle’s characteristically fast-moving, immersive style, is jarring, thrilling and weirdly funny. At a question-and-answer session after the first screening on Saturday afternoon, Mr. Boyle — director of “Trainspotting,” “28 Days Later” and of course “Slumdog Millionaire,” which snuck into Telluride two years ago — described himself as a thoroughly “urban” type with no great love for or interest in nature. And the jangly, jumpy energy he brings to a story of silence, solitude and confinement gives the film an irreverent kick that deepens and sharpens its emotional and spiritual insights.

Peter Debruge of Variety sums up the best of Boyle’s career and the new direction that the auteur is headed as indicated by the release of 127 Hours:

Danny Boyle has taken us to the surface of the sun (“Sunshine”) and the end of the world as we know it (“28 Days Later”), testing the limits of human endurance with each radically different project. “127 Hours” takes the adrenaline rush one step further, pitting man against nature in the most elemental of struggles as Boyle compresses the true story of rock-climbing junkie Aron Ralston, who spent five days wrestling with a boulder after a rockslide pinned his arm against a canyon wall, into an intense 93 minutes. Marketed correctly, pic should spell another hit for the high-energy helmer.

Based on these responses it seems that 127 Hours isn’t a Best Picture guarantee, but Franco is probably a lock for Best Actor and the film is likely going to be buzzed about throughout the rest of its festival run and into its theatrical release.
[Image: Cinema Blend]

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