A large boulder unhinges, and Aron Ralston (James Franco) descends into darkness, caught between a boulder and a cavern seconds later. Unable to move, he is literally stuck between a rock and a hard place.
After filming the streets of zombie-infested London in “28 Days Later” and the slums of Mumbai, India, in “Slumdog Millionaire,” director Danny Boyle continues to inject his hyperkinetic energy into every frame of his new film, “127 Hours.” It’s the spellbinding true story of rock climber Ralston, whose arm was caught between a massive canyon rock and wall in a Utah desert. Ralston survived in the canyon for five days, finally having to amputate his own arm with a dull knife in order to save his life.
The real-life story is something of a miracle. For the majority of the film, Ralston is left to his own devices while trapped in the canyon. In Boyle’s hands it proves to be a different story entirely. He injects vivid colors and quick cuts, creating the fast-paced world Ralston lives in as he bikes down the cavern terrace in the opening scene before his accident.
The visceral world in “127 Hours” works beautifully with Franco’s commanding and heartbreaking performance. In the canyon, the regretful maverick records final messages to his parents and his friends, wishing to them that he’d been a better son and a wiser person. It’s a subtle moment in the film that’s full of chaotic scenes, but as Ralston bears his soul to the camera, the heart of the film comes alive.
Cinematographers Anthony Dod Mantle and Enrique Chediak fly their cameras around Franco and the gorgeous landscape capturing the adrenaline fueled world that Boyle meticulously directs. Shooting in the actual location where Ralston was stuck also adds to the sensational realism of the film.
The gut-wrenching climax where Ralston cuts through his arm veins proves to be the most difficult to watch. The scene will undoubtedly cause audiences to turn their heads. But it’s more than necessary to the story Boyle is telling, and he doesn’t shy away from it.
With the Oscar-caliber performance by Franco, “127 Hours” proves to be a thrilling experience and a film that defines the power of the human will to survive. With Boyle’s direction, the journey of man battling nature becomes an exuberant experience, and one of the finest films of the year.
“127 Hours” was written by Simon Beaufoy and Danny Boyle and directed by Danny Boyle.