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Contender: ‘127 Hours’

A playful and vigorous you-are-there telling of true story

Danny Boyle’s first movie since winning the best director Oscar for “Slumdog Millionaire” puts him in the running once again, with a playful and vigorous you-are-there telling of real-life rock climber Aron Ralston’s grueling captivity pinned to a boulder in a canyon.

“Nearly flawless” is how the New York Times’ A.O. Scott summed up this eccentric and stirring take on a narratively strict scenario, and most critics agreed when it debuted triumphantly at Telluride. But most importantly, the movie reps respected young actor/eccentric James Franco’s best shot yet at earning his first Academy recognition. That’s because his galvanizing near-solo turn — drawing the frustration, wild ingenuity, comic weirdness and soul-searching out of Ralston’s plight — serves as a bracing change from the usual survival-saga earnestness one expects from movie versions of such stories.

Plenty of Oscar-winning “Slumdog” alumni could see a return nom, starting with adapting screenwriter Simon Beaufoy for his clever dramatization of Ralston’s various mental states and unexpected tinges of humor. The inventive cinematography comes from “Slumdog” awardee Anthony Dod Mantle and another former Boyle collaborator, Enrique Chediak, while Oscar-winning “Slumdog” composer A.R. Rahman provided the propulsive score.

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