Yes, you know the ending. Yes, it’s always in the back of your mind what is going to happen at some point, but somehow 127 Hours manages to grip you for its running time and never let you go. You know what is going to happen but you’re still interested to see how you will get there.
Danny Boyle’s latest follows a similar trend in his latest films of “What would you do to survive?” – however the difference here is that we know this is real. For all the feel-good happenings of Slumdog there was still the slightly bitter thought of knowing that for the vast majority of its stars life would be little different. Here you know that this is a life changing situation for real. Curiously, Boyle seems to use this as an excuse to increase the hallucinatory weirdness that has been present in many of his films.
In many ways it could have been purely a technical exercise, the opportunity to film within the most enclosed set possible (similar to last years Buried) with a single actor, but neither Boyle nor Franco seem interested in that, viewing the story as an almost spiritual conversion. Certainly when the act itself comes (and it’s no where near as nauseating as the press would have you believe) it feels almost cathartic. If Boyle deserves credit for maintaining the tension throughout, Franco deserves equal credit for making us care about an initially unlikeable man. For long stretches he is the only person on screen – often in extreme close up – and without his sense of commitment the film would falter.
Does it need to be seen at the cinema? It’s a tricky one, there isn’t the sense of spectacle that some films create that demands a cinema visit, but there is the sense of audience participation in that it’s great fun to watch others squirm as they wait to see what will happen. In fact they should cover their ears, the soundtrack (and you never hear the break / cut) is superb in realising the act, a series of feedback / guitar distortions that feel like a dentist drill. When the whole thing is over the big surprise is that the film remains constantly entertaining.