Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Video review: "127 Hours"

I'm writing this before the Oscars telecast, but it's a pretty good bet that "127 Hours" came away from the Academy Awards empty-handed.

If so, that's a shame. Even more deplorable is the film's paltry box-office take, meaning audiences were staying away in droves. It seems in these dreary times, people just didn't want to go to "that movie about the guy who cuts his arm off."

Perhaps the most important duty of a critic is to champion films that didn't get a fair shake. To wit: You owe it to yourself to watch this extraordinary movie.

Despite its reputation as hard to watch -- the film's greatest amount of media coverage seemed to be about how many people passed out at screenings -- "127 Hours" is one of the most life-affirming cinematic experiences of my lifetime.

Yes, the scene where mountain climber Aron Ralston (a brilliant James Franco) saws through his right arm after being pinned in a slot canyon for five days is presented with unblinking, graphic honesty. But in a story about sacrifice, director/co-writer Danny Boyle ("Slumdog Millionaire") has to show what's at stake.
Ultimately, "127 Hours" is not about what Aron Ralston left behind in that lonely, parched canyon, but what he took out with him.

Extra features are fine, though a little diminished by not having Franco participate in the DVD commentary track with Boyle, co-writer Simon Beaufoy and producer Christian Colson. This film is built entirely around one actor's performance, and to not lend his voice to the commentary is a letdown.

The DVD also includes several deleted scenes.

The Blu-ray version includes these features, plus a feature about the real-life events that inspired the film, and another about the collaboration between Boyle and Franco (which makes up somewhat for his commentary absence).

The Blu-ray also has a digital copy of the film and "God of Love," a wonderful Oscar-nominated short film.

Movie: 4 stars out of four
Extras: 3 stars

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