127 HOURS, the latest offering from ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ director Danny Boyle, is based on the true of story of American engineer and mountaineer Aron Ralston, who, in 2003, without telling anyone his destination, headed into the Utah desert to climb through the remote Blue John Canyon.
After becoming trapped in a crevasse when a falling boulder pinned his right arm to a wall, he spent five days - 127 hours - attempting to break free and attract attention before finally deciding to cut his arm off using a blunt knife.
The premise - the outcome of which will already be known by most viewers - could present a challenge to a film-maker, namely how to keep the audience enthralled in an action movie where there is little action. But Boyle’s brilliant direction, together with a stunning performance by lead James Franco combine to make this a nailbiting, gripping, and surprisingly uplifiting tale of survival.
At the beginning of the film we see Ralston as an arrogant thrillseeker, but throughout his ordeal, with the help of flashbacks, hallucinations and his own filming of the situation, we see his transformation into a gritty, determined and likeable survivor.
Forced to take a look at his own behaviour and how it affects those that he loves, Ralston is humbled into realising that he is as vulnerable as anybody else.
After a harrowingly realistic scene in which he finally realises his only way out is to hack his arm off - a scene which is ten minutes long, but which in reality took Aron Ralston an hour - you can’t help but join him in a real sense of relief when he eventually frees himself and begins to make his way back to civilisation.
This tale of determination, perseverance and survival is a must-see for anyone who appreciates the important things in life, or anyone who needs a reminder of what they are.
IT’S amazing how tense a film about a stammer can be. For those among us who balk at the thought of public speaking at the best of times, The King’s Speech is the cinematic depiction of a waking nightmare.
I was squirming in my seat within five minutes of the opening credits, as Colin Firth (King George VI, formerly the Duke of York) faces up to a sea of expectant faces and literally chokes on his words. Silence, in this situation, was definitely not golden.
The film charts the story of the future king - known as “Bertie” to his family, - as he struggles to control the severe stammer which has dogged him since childhood, his protective wife (Helena Bonham Carter) and the unorthodox Antipodian speech therapist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) who helps restore his royal patient’s belief in himself.
We are first introduced to Bertie in the 1920s as his formidable father (Michael Gambon) lectures him on the dawning of the new media age in which the monarchy are expected to play their part. The radio is changing the way information is disseminated, and George V makes it painfully clear that silence on the air waves will not cut the mustard.
His lack of understanding towards his son is mirrored in the various treatments Bertie is subjected to - therapists who make him cram marbles into his mouth and who tell him that smoking “relaxes the larynx.” As his father’s health declines, and his brother Edward (Guy Pierce) continues his dalliance with the married Wallis Simpson, it dawns on Bertie that he may well be called upon to take up the crown one day.
Nominated for 12 Oscars, the film’s strengths are indeed numerous. Firth is entirely convincing as a man beaten down by frustration and doubt, and the friendship he builds up with the twinkly Logue, the first “commoner” he has ever really spoken to, is touching.
There is strong support from Bonham Carter, on fine form as Elizabeth, whose love for her husband leads her to seek out Logue in the first place, while Pierce is horribly slimy as Bertie’s bullying elder brother whose infatuation with Simpson causes him to abdicate the throne.
The historical backdrop of the spread of Nazism and the run-up to the Second World War lends the story impetus as the newly-crowned King George desperately struggles to find his voice and provide the nation with the reassurance and guidance needed to see Britain through its darkest days. Like I said, tense stuff.