Cinema Festivals London Film Festival

LFF 2010: 127 Hours

Director Danny Boyle returns from the success of Slumdog Millionaire with a vibrant depiction of man versus nature.

The story here is of Aaron Ralston (played by James Franco), the outdoor enthusiast who in 2003 was stranded under a boulder after falling into a remote canyon in Utah.

Beginning with an extended opening section, Boyle uses a variety of techniques (including split screen, weird angles, quick edits) to express Ralston’s energetic lifestyle as he ventures into a situation that would become ominously static.

He meets two women (Kate Mara and Amber Tamblyn) before parting with them and climbing across an isolated canyon where he becomes trapped for the next 127 hours (look out for a killer title card).

Although it was a widely publicised news story at the time, there is a dilemma when discussing the events of this film.

Some will go in knowing what happened, whilst others will not.

For the benefit of the latter, I’ll refrain from revealing the full details but it is worth noting that the film is not a gory exploration of Ralston’s distress and audiences might be surprised at the overall tone of the film, which is far from gloomy.

An unusual project, in that so much of it revolves around a central location, Boyle contrasts the vital specifics of Ralston’s confinement in the canyon with his interior thoughts as it becomes an increasingly desperate experience.

The details of the situation are expertly realised as a penknife, water bottle, climbing rope and digital camera all assume a vital importance with a large chunk of the film feeling like an existential prison drama.

This gives it a slightly unusual vibe, as the audience is effectively trapped with Ralston in a claustrophobic way.

Using two cinematographers (Anthony Dod Mantle and Enrique Chedia) working in tandem, the ordeal is powerfully realised using a bag of visual tricks to delve deep into his physical and emotional trauma.

Before we get to the canyon, the sun filled landscapes of Utah are shot and edited with a vibrancy and panache recalling some of Boyle’s earlier work, notably Trainspotting and Slumdog Millionaire.

There are also some poetic details that enrich the atmosphere: the distant planes above cutting through the blue sky, insects nonchalantly roaming free and the colour of the rocks themselves which look startling in the sunlight.

Once he actually becomes trapped, a variety of different shots and perspectives help give the situation different visual flavours: the interior of his water bottle, the bone inside his arm and video diary footage on his personal camera, become important in breaking up the gruelling monotony of his predicament.

His interior thoughts are brought to life with memories, flashbacks and hallucinations: a break-up with a girlfriend (Clemence Poesy); visions of his family and childhood; a strange chat-show monologue with himself and a flash flood.

There are times when it feels the filmmakers are over-compensating for the limitations they chose, and more doses of stillness would have been welcome, but overall the visual and audio design helps us get inside Ralston’s physical and emotional situation with clarity and empathy.

But the most brilliant decision of all was the casting of James Franco. His surface charms and hidden depths as an actor provide a perfect fit for the role, as he impressively navigates the emotional ride of his character.

With an unusual amount of screen time he hits all the notes required: exuberant daring as he cycles across Utah; determined ingenuity as he tries to escape the canyon; and the desperate, haunted pain as he stares into the face of death.

A.R. Rahman’s score is a bit looser than his work on Slumdog Millionaire, but it makes for an emotional backdrop to the events on screen and Boyle’s use of songs (notably Free Blood’s ‘Never Hear Surf Music Again’) is effective in cutting together with the images on screen.

Although 127 Hours feels longer than its 93 minute running time (well, it wouldn’t it?), this is actually a sign that Boyle’s gamble in dramatising this material has actually worked.

It is an unusual project in all sorts of ways, eschewing narrative conventions and revelling in its creative rough edges, as it focuses relentlessly on one man’s physical and mental struggle.

There is something in Ralston’s struggle that is both primal and fascinating. Inevitably we ask what we ourselves would have done in the same situation.

But this film version is not just a technical exercise in outdoor survival. It is a reminder of the basic need to survive in the darkest of circumstances.

By the end 127 Hours becomes a transcendent film about the power of life in the face of death.

127 Hours closed the LFF last night and goes on US release on Friday 5th November and in the UK on Friday 7th January.

> 127 Hours at the LFF
> Official website
> Reviews from Telluride and TIFF via MUBi

Interesting Viral Video

Slumdog Millionaire Jai Ho dance remixes

The dance sequence to A.R. Rahman‘s Jai Ho at the end of Slumdog Millionaire has been getting some heavy remix action on the web recently.

Here are some of the more notable tributes:

(Jay Leno with A.R. Rahman on The Tonight Show)

(By composer/music programmer Darrel Mascarenhas)

(Filmed in Tim’s Jazz 101 class at Dance101 in Atlanta, GA)

(Mick Hagen and Rachel Hagen. Follow them on Twitter: @mickhagen and @rachelhagen)

(Justine and Lizzie of FOAMproductions)

[Links via Buzzfeed)

> See the lyrics to Jai Ho translated into English
> Instructions on how to do the dance at The Age
> Check out our interview with Danny Boyle on Slumdog Millionaire
> See other related posts on Slumdog Millionaire

Cinema Interviews Podcast

Interview: Danny Boyle on Slumdog Millionaire

Danny Boyle directing Slumdog Millionaire

Danny Boyle is the director of Slumdog Millionaire, a new film out in the UK this week about a young street kid (Dev Patel) who ends up on the Indian version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.

Adapted by Simon Beaufoy from the novel Q and A by Vikas Swarup, it deservedly received a lot of buzz and acclaim at the Telluride and Toronto film festivals and is widely considered a frontrunner for BAFTA and Oscar consideration.

I spoke with Danny in London recently about the film and we discussed: the story, filming in Mumbai, using digital cameras, the Indian actors he worked with and the interesting backstory of how the film got financed and released.

Listen to the interview here:


You can download this interview as a podcast via iTunes by clicking here

Slumdog Millionaire is out at UK cinemas from Friday 9th January

> Download this interview as an MP3 file
Danny Boyle at the IMDb
Official UK site
More reviews of Slumdog Millionaire at Metacritic
Read our selection of the best films of 2008

[Image: Ishika Mohan / Pathe / TM and © 2008]


LFF 2008: Day 16

Slumdog Millionaire poster

Today is the final day of this year’s London Film Festival and earlier this morning I saw Slumdog Millionaire, which is tonight’s closing film.

Directed by Danny Boyle, it is the story of a streetkid from Mumbai who goes on the Hindi version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

I spoke to Danny last year and he told me a bit about the story, which you can listen to here:


Adapted by Simon Beaufoy (The Full Monty) from the novel Q and A by Vikas Swarup, it recently received a lot of buzz and critical acclaim at the Telluride and Toronto film festivals.

What’s interesting is that the narrative plays a little like The Usual Suspects, as we learn how the central character Jamal (Dev Patel) came to be on the game show.  

It then flashes back to periods of his life growing up as a kid from the slums (or ‘slumdog’ as some less than charitable characters in the film put it) and his desire to find the true love of his life (Frieda Pinto).

Boyle and his cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle don’t shy away from the poverty of the slums in the film and some might be a bit taken aback by some of the darker scenes (one early sequence had the woman next to me squirming), but at the same time there is a tremendous energy and humanity to the story.

India of the last 20 years is portrayed with a harsh sense of realism but what’s nice is that the characters and their story counterbalance this with an emotional warmth that is not only very affecting but mercifully free of easy sentiment.

Whilst the flashback structure takes a little while to really click, once the film gets going it really pays dividends, especially as it builds towards a gripping climax.

Another clever touch is the realistic portrayal of the Who Wants To Be A Millionaire show, complete with the right music and graphics which are expertly woven into the film and play a key part in how the story unfolds.

The cheesy tension of the TV show somehow has a new life here, with added meaning on the tense pauses and multiple choice questions.      

It is one of those films that is a little tricky to write about as I think audiences will enjoy it more if they go in to it not knowing too much. 

But this could be a genuine hit amongst a wide cross section of people – it cleverly mixes serious social commentary with a classical tale of lost love and the warm ripple of applause I heard at the end (rare for a press screening) indicates that it will have excellent  word of mouth.

It will be interesting to see how it does in India as it stars two big Bollywood stars (Anil Kapoor and Irrfan Khan) in key roles and may do some serious business over there. 

Credit must also to Tessa Ross at Film Four for acquiring the rights and getting Boyle and Beaufoy on board as the non-UK setting and story appears to have given both of them a creative shot in the arm.

I remember seeing Juno last year at the London Film Festival and thinking it would do very well. After showing at Telluride and being released by Fox Searchlight (perhaps the savviest studio at working the awards season) it went on to be a huge success.

Similarly, Slumdog Millionaire also premiered to rave reviews at Telluride before being acquired by Fox Searchlight – they’ll release it in the US in a couple of weeks whilst Pathe will be distributing it in the UK. 

It might not do the same kind of business as Juno but this looks set for similar buzz, which is richly deserved as it is one of the most uplifting films to come out this year.

Slumdog Millionaire opens in the US on November 14th and in the UK on Friday 23rd January 2008

Official site for the London Film Festival
Official US site for Slumdog Millionaire at Fox Searchlight
/Film with more photos from the film
Listen to our full interview with Danny Boyle from April 2007 about Sunshine

Festivals London Film Festival News

Slumdog Millionaire to close the London Film Festival

Slumdog Millionaire will be the closing film at this year’s London Film Festival.

Directed by Danny Boyle, it is the story of a streetkid from Mumbai (Dev Patel) who goes on the Hindi version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?.

I spoke to Danny last year and he told me a bit about the story, which you can listen to here:



The film recently received a lot of buzz and critical acclaim at the Telluride Film Festival and looks like an early awards season contender.

It will screen this week at the Toronto Film Festival and opens in the US on November 28th.

A UK release is expected for early 2009.

This is a clip from the film:

Here is the official press release:

London – Wednesday 3 September: The Closing Night Gala of The Times BFI 52nd London Film Festival will be the European Premiere of Danny Boyle’s SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE.

SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE is the story of Jamal Malik, an 18 year-old orphan from the slums of Mumbai, who finds himself  just one question away from winning a staggering 20 million rupees on India’s ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?’.

Arrested on suspicion of cheating, Jamal tells the police the incredible story of his life on the streets, and of the girl he loved and lost. But what is a kid with no interest in money doing on the show? And how does he know all the answers?

When the new day dawns and Jamal returns to answer the final question, the police and sixty million viewers are about to find out … Dev Patel (Skins) stars alongside an all-Indian cast including Anil Kapoor, Irrfan Khan, Madhur Mittal and Freida Pinto in this uplifting drama set and shot in India.

SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE was adapted for the screen by Oscar®-winning writer Simon Beaufoy (THE FULL MONTY) from the bestselling novel Q and A by Vikas Swarup.

The film was produced by Christian Colson and Executive Producers Tessa Ross and Paul Smith, with cinematography from Boyle’s regular collaborator Anthony Dod Mantle (28 DAYS LATER).

Pathé Distribution will release the Film4 funded film in the UK in early 2009 and Pathé International is handling international sales.

In addition to bringing the Festival’s 16 day celebration of cinema to a close, Danny Boyle will give a career interview as part of the Tiscali Screen Talks series.

Sandra Hebron, the Festival’s Artistic Director comments: ‘We’re thrilled to be closing our Festival with this latest film from one of the UK’s most talented and versatile directors. Pulling together a wealth of talent from two continents to tell this moving and truly contemporary tale, SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE will bring this year’s Festival to a vibrant and cheering close.’

On having his film invited to close the London Film Festival, Danny Boyle comments: “I am delighted that the film will receive its European premiere at the London Film Festival. I hope that Londoners will respond to this story about another great megatropolis – Mumbai, “the Maximum City”.’

The full programme for The Times BFI 52nd London Film Festival will be announced next Wednesday (10th September).

The London Film Festival runs from 15-30 October 2008

> Official site for the London Film Festival
> Official US site for Slumdog Millionaire at Fox Searchlight
> /Film with more photos from the film
> Listen to our full interview with Danny Boyle from April 2007 about Sunshine

[Photo Credit: Ishika Mohan / TM and © 2008 Fox Searchlight / All rights reserved.]