One of the worst experiences I’ve had with a screening this year was in Toronto, and despite a bizarre series of technical and logistical screw-ups that delayed the film by nearly two hours and cost me another screening, I ended up deeply affected by “127 Hours,” which is a real testament to just how effective the film is. For a movie to immediately make all of that accumulated stress and irritation drop away is a real trick, and I’ve certainly been guilty of letting the day leak into viewings of films. It happens to anyone who does this day in and day out.
Little wonder, though. Danny Boyle’s been a favorite of mine since his first film, “Shallow Grave,” and it’s been great watching the way his voice has developed from picture to picture. When I really like a filmmaker’s work, it’s doubly upsetting when they make something I really don’t like, and that’s been rare in his filmography. He’s tried some of everything, it seems, and he’s done most of it really well. It’s hard to pinpoint his signature precisely because he’s so nimble, but what I think unites Boyle’s films is the way he constantly strives to use film and music together to bring you past an intellectual reaction to his films. He’s a smart filmmaker, but he’s interested in the visceral, the pure reaction. His best moments in his best films are amazing, emotional, and immersive.
That’s “127 Hours” in a nutshell. The whole point of the film is to put you in the same position that Aron Ralston was in when he got his arm pinned during a rockslide while he was free-climbing by himself in the Utah desert. Working from a lean and winning screenplay by Simon Beaufoy, Boyle has crafted an experience that’s both highly stylized and deeply realistic. By pushing the style as far as he does, Boyle gets at the way something would really feel.
That wouldn’t work if James Franco’s performance wasn’t the best of his career, and so it makes sense to talk to the two of them together. A week ago, I started my day with the two of them at the Four Seasons, and they couldn’t have been nicer. Oddly, even though I’ve been a fan since his first film, this is the first time I’ve sat down with Boyle. The opposite is true of Franco, who I’ve spent time with on the sets of “Pineapple Express” and “Your Highness.” At this point, I think I’ve got a sense of how to talk to him, which isn’t the easiest thing in the world. Franco’s very media savvy, and he treats the interview process like performance art. Sitting next to Boyle, though, and talking about Aron Ralston’s experience, Franco was nothing but sincere, and hopefully you’ll enjoy the short chat, and then see the movie as soon as it opens.
“127 Hours” open Friday, November 5, in theaters everywhere.