"Many tears were shed at the world premiere screening of 127 Hours at the Telluride Film Festival on Saturday afternoon," reports John Horn in the Los Angeles Times. "But few in the audience of some 500 cried harder than Aron Ralston, the hiker who famously cut off his right forearm and is the subject of director Danny Boyle's new movie. Boyle has described the film, which Fox Searchlight is releasing on Nov 5, as an action movie in which the hero doesn't move... Boyle appears to have taken that as a challenge."
Ralson's "experience is disconcerting enough just to think about, and to see it recreated, in Mr Boyle's characteristically fast-moving, immersive style, is jarring, thrilling and weirdly funny," blogs AO Scott for the New York Times. "At a question-and-answer session after the first screening on Saturday afternoon, Mr Boyle — director of Trainspotting, 28 Days Later and of course Slumdog Millionaire, which snuck into Telluride two years ago — described himself as a thoroughly 'urban' type with no great love for or interest in nature. And the jangly, jumpy energy he brings to a story of silence, solitude and confinement gives the film an irreverent kick that deepens and sharpens its emotional and spiritual insights."
"As a harrowing survival film, the picture is first-rate, and Boyle, star James Franco and two ambitious cameramen make the most of a tight space and the suspense of a terrifying ordeal," blogs the Hollywood Reporter's Jay A Fernandez. "A word about that climactic act: Yes, it's excruciating to watch, even as all of us knew it was coming, since Boyle and Franco play it very realistically.... But it's the sound design that really captures the divine agony of Ralston's suffering. What he did is some kind of miracle."
"It's gut-wrenching in a queasy, horror-movie way — a shield-your-eyes-from-the-screen, chuckle-in-relieved-astonishment sort of experience, done incredibly well." Eugene Novikov at Cinematical: "James Franco, who is on screen alone for the vast majority of the film's short running time, is perfectly cast and excellent. A lot of 127 Hours' medical-procedure-like squeamishness actually comes from him — e.g. his look of stunned incomprehension as the dust settles and he first beholds his arm crushed under a boulder, and his still-disbelieving frustration as he realizes that it ain't gonna come loose."
Hitfix's Gregory Ellwood is "moved and shaken" and notes that "Boyle is assisted by exemplary cinematography credited to both Enrique Chediak and Anthony Dod Mantle. AR Rahman, who famously collaborated with Boyle on Slumdog, is back for a second go around with new songs and compositions that eloquently fit the mood (most appear to feature Dido in the vocals). Rahman is also pitch perfect in his score for the film's most dramatic moment, helping Boyle create the unexpectedly uplifting conclusion."
"I found some of Boyle's visual ideas to be running out of gas by the end of the film, and I imagine others might feel burdened by a sense of repetition, too," notes Kristopher Tapley at In Contention.
/Film's Peter Sciretta notes that Franco's Ralston "doesn’t talk to himself, and had no Volleyball named Wilson with him in which to have conversations. The screenplay, written by frequent Boyle collaborator and Slumdog Millionaire writer Simon Beaufoy (The Full Monty, Closer) does however employ a number of dramatic devices to keep it interesting: from a few stream of consciousness flashbacks to memories and moments from his past to some more serious delusions. However, it never feels at all gimmicky." All in all, an enthusiastic review. His friend Alex Billington of FirstShowing, however, "didn't get pulled into the film like I wanted to," and the two have recorded a conversation (19'40") "debating our feelings."
Update: "Just as director Rodrigo Cortés did in the recent stuck-in-a-coffin thriller Buried, Boyle constantly repositions the camera to help dispel the potential claustrophobia of it all," writes Variety's Peter Debruge, "sometimes pulling weird trick shots (such as the straw's-eye view of Ralston's dwindling water supply). Since the real Ralston brought a camcorder along on the hike, the film treats some of the footage as if the character were documenting the situation himself, letting the writers get away with a fair amount of explanatory dialogue, along with the occasional tension-breaking one-liner."
Update, 9/6: "Mr Boyle does succeed smashingly in holding your attention, peppering in healthy doses of flashbacks and fantasies between Mr Ralston's monologues and his attempts to free himself," writes Martin Tsai in the Critic's Notebook. "Some of the stuff is unmistakable, vintage Danny Boyle, such as illustrating Mr Ralston poking his arm with a dull knife by simply showing a crimson-tinted cutaway of the blade hitting the bone sans the flesh. But at this point in Mr Boyle's career, it's mind-boggling to see him paying random homage to Martin Scorsese's The King of Comedy during a fantasy sequence."
Updates, 9/7: "Although Ralston's ordeal gripped the world seven years ago, there was no guarantee that a film would do justice to the chilling true story," writes Stephen Farber in the Hollywood Reporter. "All of the key creative personnel contribute to the movie's nail-biting tension and unexpectedly moving finale. Jon Harris's editing is matchless, and Rahman's score effectively heightens the emotion. Ultimately, however, it is the talents of Boyle and Franco that sock this movie home."
Viewing (19'03"). FirstShowing's Alex Billington interviews the real Aaron Ralston.
Updates, 9/12: "The slightly unconscionable angle of 127 Hours is that we're all just sitting there, waiting for the big, horrific payoff, and Boyle teases us perhaps a bit too mischievously," writes Stephanie Zacharek at Movieline. "But the movie's saving grace — and the thing that makes it an intriguing piece of filmmaking instead of just a work of exploitation — is that Boyle doesn't present Aron's predicament as a glum, existential downer. The movie has none of the phony philosophic posturing of, say, Into the Wild. Instead, Aron faces this peculiar challenge with a sense of humor and an admirable degree of common sense.... I didn't emerge from 127 Hours feeling angry and overly manipulated, as I feared I might. And that, I think, is Boyle's greatest feat of unmanipulative manipulation."
"127 Hours isn't as exciting as it's pretending to be," writes Noel Murray at the AV Club. "Boyle employs a lot of visual gimmickry to indicate the passing of time, the depletion of Franco's resources, what's running through his head, whatnot. But it's all in service of a pat lesson about how much people need people."
Salon's Andrew O'Hehir isn't sure whether 127 Hours "lies closer to pop-spiritual masterpiece or self-indulgent wizardry. It definitely has elements of both."
Time's Richard Corliss: "There are times when even sympathetic viewers may wish for a steadier, subtler approach, as the great French minimalist Robert Bresson brought to a similar scenario in the 1956 A Man Escapes — which carried its own spoiler alert in its original title: A Condemned Man Escapes from Death. But Boyle, who has provided elevated entertainment in many genres since his 1994 feature film debut Shallow Grave, isn't Bresson and needn't be. This is an existential prison-break movie that cuts deep and, at its earned, ecstatic climax, soars high."
Update, 9/16: Viewing. Anne Thompson talks with Boyle and Franco.
Update, 9/17: More viewing. Alex Billington interviews Boyle.
Update, 9/19: Fernando F Croce at the House Next Door: "Far more than the filmmaker's hectic, ultimately tension-dispersing visual and aural gimmickry, the picture's best special effect remains Franco's performance, which catches the horror and sublimity of a jock humbled while trapped at the bottom of the earth, becoming spiritually whole even as he literally loses parts of himself."
Update, 9/20: David Fear interviews Boyle for Time Out New York.
Coverage of the coverage: Telluride and Toronto 2010. For news and tips throughout the day every day, follow The Daily Notebook on Twitter and/or the RSS feed.