Monday, January 17, 2011

Consumption: 127 Hours and Buried

The whole "numbering of posts" idea in the subject line was not well thought out, so I'm abandoning it before it gets to be March and I'm trying to remember whether I'm Books Vol. III or Films Vol. XIV or whatever the hell it is. And now onto the claustrophobia!

127 Hours (d. Danny Boyle)
Buried (d. Rodrigo Cortes)

I watched these movies on back-to-back days last week and let me tell you this: Any romanticism I ever held dear regarding finding myself trapped in a confined space for hours on end has virtually disappeared! Both films center around one person hanging out below the earth. James Franco (whose character is based on a real person, but I'll just keep calling him James Franco) spends about 20 minutes running through the desert and enjoying a no-pants swim with Amber Tamblyn before a massive boulder alters his plans and he spends the next 127 Hours (GET IT?) screaming, reminiscing, and recording a series of progressively depressing video blogs.

When I first read about Danny Boyle choosing this as his post-Slumdog Millionaire film, there were reports that the film would feature an hour without dialogue. This piqued my interest, but apparently this plan went out the window at some point, because the film is peppered throughout with vignettes of past family and friends from James Franco's life. Shooting in one confined space also appears to cause Boyle's OCD to go haywire, as he starts cramming in jarring camera angles whenever possible. If you've ever wanted to see a extra close up of James Franco touching his eyeball while he wets a contact lens in his mouth, you're in luck. Same to those who thought they might live their whole life before seeing the flow of urine through a Camelbak SHOT FROM INSIDE THE CAMELBAK TUBE. And of course it all leads up the "thing with the arm."  For all the gimmicks that Boyle goes through behind the camera, he gets an outstanding performance from Franco that makes the film worthwhile in the end. I suppose I just preferred the possibilities within the daring sparseness of his original treatment as opposed to the hyperactive edit of the final product.

Buried, on the other hand, has no flashbacks. In fact, aside from a short cell-phone video, there are no actors on screen other than Ryan Reynolds in the 90-minute real-time sequencing. Reynolds' only communication with the outside world comes from a series of cell phone calls, which proves for a fact that I'd get better cell phone reception if I were buried in a Middle East desert than I do in my office building in Northbrook, IL. (Sidenote - it drove me insane trying to place one of the voices on the phone, before I realized it was podcaster extraordinare Stephen Tobolowsky AKA Ned Ryerson.) Nearly every review I've read of this film brings up references to Hitchcock, and indeed, this is the kind of minimilastic tense thriller that owes no small part to films like Rope in particular. While I felt more engaged overall by 127 Hours, I admired Cortes' spirit more than Boyle's. It's a ballsy move as a director to spend a full film inside a box in the ground, and like Boyle he shows a bit of camera-positioning flash by looking "through" the ground at times, but the moves always feel vital in amping up the energy of the story. And he gives the viewer a well earned "What the fuck?" moment at the end.

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