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.
As nerve-racking as the whole predicament is, it's surprising how much humor manages to sneak in, with A.R. Rahman's Western-sounding synthpop score building from tension to ultimate triumph (with a boost from the original Dido collaboration "If I Rise"). Many will come out of sheer curiosity about Ralston's self-administered amputation (whether or not they manage to keep their eyes open during the scene itself), but the scenes that follow are even more effective, right up to the closing images of the real Ralston, still chasing the adrenaline dream.
Reviewed at Telluride Film Festival (Sneak Preview), Sept. 4, 2010. (Also in Toronto Film Festival -- Special Presentations.)