Austin Film Festival Day Six Rundown
October 26, 2010
1) 127 Hours
2) Brothers Justice
1) 127 Hours (d. Danny Boyle)
This movie is the reason I don't go camping, hiking, or engage in any outdoor activity other than golf. I don't care how bad I play, I have never once been in the position to even consider cutting my own arm off to get back to the clubhouse.
That being said...
This is an incredibly intense, rough, and powerful film that is by no means easy to watch, but it is quite good.
If you don't knew the story, Aron Ralston, an avid outdoorsman, mountaineer, hiker, biker, all of that, goes off for a weekend ride and exploration without telling anyone where he's going and had the worst possible thing happen to him. No, he wasn't killed or sodomized by hill folk, a rock in a cave he was climbing gave way, pinning his arm to the wall of the cave. In the middle of nowhere, out of view, and running low on supplies his case seemed hopeless until he made the realization that "I have a great tourniquet."
Oh, and it's a true story.
This film focuses on the 127 hours from when he falls to the moment he makes a decision that most people couldn't even consider making. What you have here is a person, faced with a dire situation, no food, little water, unable to even turn around, having to jerry rig a climbing harness just to sleep, seeing his life for what it is, the good and the bad. This film presents a man laid bare and shows what you learn about yourself and life when it appears you will lose it.
The film itself is extremely well made. Danny Boyle pulls out as many stops as one can when dealing with a scenario that renders the camera immobile for a majority of the proceedings. Visually, he seems to be locked into his "Slumdog Millionaire" film grammar. It has that look and feel, the rich colors, the slightly slowed action, rewound scenes, flashbacks to small details we missed the first time, but the thematic elements keep it from feeling like a retread. He mixes a very stylized editing and grandiose establishing shots that show the vastness of the landscape with shaky hand held tracking shots that make you feel personally involved.
What I found most impressive was his use of sound. Not only to convey the isolation, but, more impressively, to communicate the intense pain of a self preformed amputation. The use of the camcorder, not only as source for onscreen footage but as a second character, is incredibly affecting, and allows James Franco (in the performance of his career) to show the emotional swings from a forced joy to borderline insanity, and finally into the determination to live that would drive a man to such action.
This is not an easy film to watch, but it is not the people fainting at screenings histrionic affair that some are making it out to be. What it is is a very honest and real portrayal of what happens when you are confronted with losing everything.
2) Brothers Justice (d. Dax Shepherd)
I have never disliked Dax Shepherd. His work on Punk'd was funny for what it was, he was great in "Idiocracy" and, from my limited exposure to him on that set, he is a damned nice guy. He has made some shit movies, that isn't in question, but when the checks start being written who among us is really gonna say no?
So, knowing that Dax can be quite funny, and reading the synopsis of this film I had decent hopes. This is a mocumentary about Dax trying to launch himself as a martial arts movie star, even though he has no training. We follow him and his producer friend around as they try to get studio interest, attach stars, and get the thing made.
The problem is that it isn't that funny. It's funny, but just not very. The problem with making a mocumentary is that you have to make it look real while still maintaining comic timing. These two things don't work together easily. This movie is full of overlong scenes, timing that is just slow enough to flatten jokes, and silences that go on too long. These things are a part of this type of film and can work if they are turned into comic beats of their own (look at the work of Chris Guest for how to do this). Sadly they aren't here.
What we are left with, instead, is a somewhat funny movie that could have been a VERY funny movie. Dax does have ability, he just needs to take the time to develop it. I wasn't terribly disappointed, because there were some really great moments, fantastic cameos, and truly funny performances, but they aren't enough to get past the flat timing and lifeless direction.