In April of 2003, a young engineer named Aron Ralston had a startlingly harrowing experience. Being enthusiastic for the canyons of Utah, Aron set out on a weekend hiking adventure on his own and got way more than he bargained for. While walking through one narrow crevasse, he slips and a small boulder falls with him, wedging itself between his hand and the canyon wall, trapping Aron, with what seems as no hope for survival.
127 Hours is the newest movie from director Danny Boyle. Now I’m a huge Danny Boyle fan, with some of his past movies like Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, Sunshine and Slumdog Millionaire easily being some of the best movies that I’ve seen for the years that they were released in. At the same time, Boyle is also responsible for the only movie that I ever walked out on, A Life Less Ordinary, and this always looms for me whenever I go to see one of his films. Really though it hasn’t made a difference at all.
And that’s certainly the case with 127 Hours, an absolutely amazing tale of the perseverance of the human spirit in impossible odds. Boyle’s direction is kinetic and enthusiastic, which is even more amazing when you realize that the bulk of the movie takes place in one confined spot and with just one main character. but even with those limitations, Boyle is constantly keeping things moving and we feel every ounce of Aron’s pain along the way.
Two hallmarks of all Boyle’s films are visual flash and engrossing use of music, which are certainly evident here. The cinematography and editing in this really stand out, featuring beautiful landscapes filmed in some very interesting ways, cut together in a kinetic fashion, with a particular good use of split screen techniques. Now for all the visual flash though, it doesn’t overpower the story, and works in tandem for an experience that you feel. The music is quite effective as well, with a terrific choice of songs playing in the background that always help to highlight the situation.
But what’s at the core of this film is the sure-to-be Oscar-nominated performance of James Franco as Aron Ralston. Oh sure, there’s a supporting cast at work as well, but they are there in the barest support, which is fitting considering the solitary experience. I’ve certainly seen Franco in a lot of stuff in the past, but his work here is what I’d call career altering and inspiring. He’s full of enthusiasm that’s never irritating and pathos that’s never sappy. the most important thing though is that we’re with him all the way through this, and everything that he feels, we feel.
Don’t miss this one, it’s truly a terrific tale of survival against impossible odds that’s told with a lot of visual flash, but filled with loads of substance. Near the end of the film, things do get pretty grisly with Aron’s ultimate resolution to his predicament, so more sensitive viewers might want to keep that in mind, but still, I wouldn’t want that to stop anyone from the experience that you’ll get with 127 Hours. Highly, highly recommended.