The mother of all “What would you do?” movies, 127 Hours tells the astonishing, harrowing story of Aron Ralston (James Franco), a free-spirited adventure seeker and experienced hiker who, while climbing canyons alone in remote Utah, slipped down a crevice and was trapped by a giant boulder that pinned his right arm. The area Aron was exploring was too desolate to expect a passerby to rescue him. All he had at his disposal were the supplies he had stuffed in his backpack, which were only intended to last a day: Some rope and hooks, a couple of energy bars and a bottle of precious water.
For the next 127 hours, Aron remained trapped, every attempt to dislodge himself failing. The rock was simply too heavy to move. Chipping away at the stone wall next to his hand (which began to grow a gruesome, gangrenous blue) only made the boulder settle deeper. With each small sip of water, Aron knew his time was running out. Eventually, he resorted to the only solution possible: Amputating his arm – with a blade the size of a thumb.
127 Hours sounds like a particularly gruesome variation on Buried, in which the protagonist was also trapped and beyond rescue. But this movie is different: First, the story really happened (the script is based on Ralston’s book Between a Rock and a Hard Place). Second, director Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, Trainspotting) doesn’t keep the viewer trapped inside the canyon along with Aron. Through flashbacks and hallucinations (some frightening), we meet Aron’s family, see snippets of his childhood, relive his happiest moments and his biggest regrets. Essentially, the movie recounts the thoughts of a man increasingly convinced he is destined for a slow death.
Boyle has always been an exceptionally stylish director, and, despite its limited setting, 127 Hours is a marvel of visual eye candy. From the flatlands of Utah to the shadowy, increasingly gloomy crevice in which Aron is trapped, the movie always gives you something remarkable to look at (there’s only one sequence, and I’m sure you can guess what that is, during which some viewers may be tempted to close their eyes; the really squeamish may even hurl). Franco, who must hold the screen the way Ryan Reynolds held it in Buried — mostly by himself — conveys such a wide range of emotions that an Oscar nomination is practically guaranteed. In order for 127 Hours to work, you have to want to see Aron escape — if not intact, at least alive. Franco’s performance ensures you’ll be with him every agonizing second. This is a deeply inspirational movie about the human spirit’s refusal to give up, but it is also a portrait of a man too much in love with life to let go without a fight.
Cast: James Franco, Kate Mara, Ambler Tamblyn, Treat Williams, John Lawrence, Kate Burton.
Director: Danny Boyle.
Screenwriters: Danny Boyle, Simon Beaufoy. Based on the book ‘Between a Rock and a Hard Place’ by Aron Ralston.
Producers: Danny Boyle, Christian Coulson, John Smithson.
A Fox Searchlight Pictures release. Running time: 94 minutes. Vulgar language, graphic depiction of the severing of an arm. In Miami-Dade: Aventura, Sunset Place, South Beach; in Broward: Sunrise; in Palm Beach: Palace, Shadowood, Delray Beach.127