127 Hours

127 Hours

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Bloody hell! It made me squirm, grit my teeth and in the end it even made me cry. It was bloody brilliant!

One weekend Aaron Ralston (James Franco) sets out on a hiking, climbing trip, without telling anyone where he’s going.Whilst canyoneering alone near Moab, Utah  he becomes trapped under a boulder and resorts to desperate measures in order to survive his 127 hours ordeal.

I guess the obvious way to tackle this subject might be a documentary like Touching the Void (also brilliant and thematically very similar.)  But  Danny Boyle goes for a dramatic, totally immersive cinematic approach.

The film is kinetic from start to finish, a non stop ride, that reflects Ralston personality. Even in the potentially boring mid section of a guy stuck under a rock for fifty minutes, they have created such well planned, flowing scenes and brilliant original visual conceits, that the film never flags for a moment. They exploit every prop and angle and sound to make things continually move forward at an adrenaline inducing pace. The editing cleverly mixes the flashbacks and the present, and as Aaron become more and more disorientated sounds and people bleed from the past directly into the canyon around him. James Franco gives a stellar performance, on screen constantly for the whole movie he is totally real, engaging and believable.

(Spoilers)

Aaron realises how selfish he’s been and how he loves his life and family too much to give up. He decides he can’t die here alone in this canyon. So he cuts off his own arm in order to escape.

It’s a classic story of death and rebirth. In order to move on and survive you have to make the difficult choice to leave part of yourself behind. Although here that part has to be literally hacked off with a blunt penknife in gruesome bloody, bone crunching, nerve jangling detail.

In an uplifting ending he staggers into the light of the trail and is helped back to the world by people – friendly hikers and I bawled my eyes out when we saw him with his friends and family at the end, because he’d looked death and despair in the face and in the end (to quote another Danny Boyle film) ‘he chose life.’

Blue Valentine

Blue Valentine

We went to see this a couple of days ago.  A really well made film that alternates between the story of how a couple got together and their break up. In conception a bit like 5 x 2 by Ozon in feel a bit like Cassavettes.

The film is concerned with the subtext and undercurrents of the character’s relationships and both actors add so much  to this with believable intimate performances. I thought it was a great up until the ending, which felt a little flat, I’m not sure why. Maybe because the resolution feels like a bad compromise for both characters rather than a positive decision that they make. Though it was probably the right one given the state of things! Also the end titles which are glossily animated felt very artificial and Hollywood, pasted on the end of this social-realist drama.

However the performances are so engaging and kudos to the director and actors for that. I really think that both actors are supremely talented. Michelle William’s bares her soul and Ryan Gosling gives real depth to what could have been a one dimensional character.

I read that the director wrote the film twelve years ago and when it was finally green light felt it was so stale that he wanted the actors to improvise each scene around the scenario instead. I think this is what gives it such naturalism. Also he made them live together and separately in character for a time, which seems pretty unusual. Overall a film of great performance and tone.

The King’s Speech

The King’s Speech

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Went to see this the other day. Directed by Tom Hooper. It’s the story of King George VI of Britain, his impromptu ascension to the throne and the speech therapist who helped him overcome a stutter and become a confident public speaker.

It’s a simple story well told. An actors film with endearing performances from Colin Firth as George VI, Helena Bonham Carter as the Queen Mum and Jeffrey Rush as Lionel Loeg with support from Michael Gambon and Guy Pierce as George’s overbearing Father and brother. They are all given lots of space to do their thing in long character lead scenes. The witty dialogue and interactions help humanise the starchy and emotionally cold Royal family.

It’s very much in the pedigree of The Queen and The Madness of King George and marks the beginning of the glut of awards season films released in the UK cinemas. I found it very enjoyable.

Of Gods and Men

Of Gods and Men

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  1. A group of ten Catholic monks  live in a hilltop monastery surrounded by impoverished Algerian villages. They provide much needed medicine and advice to the local Muslim community.  Under threat by fundamentalist terrorists and from the state army, they must decide whether to leave or stay.

The film is very slow paced and meditative. It vividly captures the brittle Winter cold of the monastery and the warmth of the monks as they stoically go about their daily routines. It won the Grand Prix at Cannes 2010. All the old guys give great performances as the monks and Michael Londsdale as the Doctor – Luc I felt was particularly brilliant. He is able to pull focus towards him with the tiniest of actions and exudes a stillness and  knowledge with little dialogue. Although I enjoyed it I wouldn’t put it in my top films of the year.

It’s calming to watch as  when drama arrives the monks deal with it in a rational and thoughtful way. Even at the end, when things take a desperate turn, the monks are calm, with a dignified acceptance of their fate, not as Martyrs which the explicitly state they are not, but they have made their choice and accept the results.

The film does end on a sad note but feels very plain and non judgmental. There’s no packaging up  the story into a Hollywood theme. This is probably a good thing but maybe this is why I found it a bit flat.

It also brought up all sorts of side questions in my mind, which it doesn’t really answer. About Colonialism and should the Monks be there at all? The  Vatican is so rich, why can’t the send more medicine and supplies to their Missionaries?  Religious agendas vs living. The banality of good and evil, the meaningless nature of life. Perhaps these were all the themes, I’m still not quite sure. Hmm.