127 Hours, 2010.
Directed by Danny Boyle.
Starring James Franco, Kate Mara, Amber Tamblyn, Clémence Poésy and Lizzy Caplan.
A mountain climber becomes trapped under a boulder and is forced to resort to desperate measures in order to survive.
Danny Boyle has returned to the big screen after his Oscar hogging success with Slumdog Millionaire and brought us another indie style classic with 127 Hours. The much-hyped adaptation of the book ‘Between A Rock And A Hard Place’ follows the true story of the cold and selfish outdoor enthusiast Aron Ralston (James Franco) as he gets trapped in the remote mountains of Utah.
Ralston sets out on a seemingly average weekend alone, and without telling anyone where he was going, to bike and hike the Blue John Canyon in Utah. When Ralston falls and finds his hand trapped beneath a large rock that he cannot move things look grim. Ralston struggles, fights and tries to chip away at the rock with a blunt knife. He goes through his water rations, drinks his own urine and records messages to his loved ones on his video camera. After five days of being stuck and struggling with his own sanity he finally cuts his own arm off, takes a photo of the rock and remainder of his arm, and then staggers through the rough terrain to find help.
For a film that consists mainly of one guy trapped in a canyon with his one arm under a rock the film is a magnificent story of human triumph, epiphany and the will to survive. Ralston’s story is so brilliantly told by Boyle and, despite the distinct lack of movement for much of the film, the pace is maintained and the film engrossing. James Franco’s portrayal of Ralston is so understated, yet encapsulating. As Ralston struggles to free his hand, find comfort against the rock and deal with his lack of rations we see a man who quietly regrets his past actions. With hallucinations, vivid dreams and memories giving us snippets of his life before the rock we see some of his regrets and his cold actions towards some of those closest to him.
When Ralston finally frees himself and finds help the film finishes and we aren’t privy to his recovery, reconciliation with his family or much of his later life other than a few sentences and photos offered us by Boyle. However, from watching his struggle and will to survive we some how know that Aron Ralston is a changed man. The uncompromising sight of Ralston slicing through his own arm with a blunt knife and having to yank it through a main nerve has been too much for some audience members at London Film Festival. The horror and reality of the situation Ralston found himself in really hits home as he puts his fingers into his arm and yanks away at the muscle. Boyle pulls no punches with his images.
Unlike other one character, one location films such as Phone Booth and Buried, the latter of which can be watched with your eyes closed, 127 Hours allows us as the audience to experience Ralston’s struggle in a genuine way. 127 Hours is such a simple film in its premise, but the complexities of Ralston and his character are so well explored and played out in such a subtle way that lets us see the worth of the man. No gimmicks, no long exploration in the dialogue and no threat from outside. Just one man’s will to survive and be a better man.
Ralston’s story is a triumph of inner strength, determination and survival and Boyle films echoes that so well. Rumours of Oscar nominations for both Boyle and Franco are well deserved as the film is worth every penny paid and second spent in the cinema. 127 Hours is definitely worth a watch.
Read our review of 127 Hours from the London Film Festival here.