I was immensely surprised at how much I enjoyed the new Danny Boyle film 127 Hours. I’ve been a fan of the director’s since Shallow Grave (1994) and was looking forward to this film since I first heard about it. This being said, I’ve never been a fan of actor James Franco so I was a little hesitant about this film. Boy am I glad I saw this film.
127 Hours is a tour de force performance for Franco as he portrays Aron Ralston who during a trek into some mountainous hills and caverns on a weekend he comes to a tragic accident when a misstep in his climb causes him to fall and a bolder to collapse onto his hand pinning him to cavern wall. Because the film is based on the true story of Ralston the outcome is already known, which is that after 127 hours of being pinned to the cavern wall, Ralston is forced to cut off his arm in order to survive. Despite the fact that the outcome to the story is already known, the audience is thrust into the story of a lone adventurer who must battle his own personal demons and physical predicament in order to survive. Boyle’s film starts off well enough with Ralston heading out on his trek and then soon coming across two female backpackers (played by Kate Mara & Amber Tamblyn), who don’t figure at all into his day since he is a complete loner. He spends most of the day with the women showing them the beauty of the caverns and the grand adventure. Not long after separating from the two women, Ralston’s tragedy happens and he finds himself trapped with no escape, very little food and water, and no help since no one knows where he went because he didn’t bother to tell anyone.
Because Ralston didn’t inform anyone of where he was going or when he would be back, no one will be looking for him and he soon realizes if he is to survive he will have to rely on his own merits. After several attempts at trying to move the bolder fail, Ralston is plunged into a personal hell in which (due to dehydration and no food) he starts hallucinating about all the things he did wrong in his life from his relationship with his girlfriend to that of his family and how he distanced himself from everyone in his life. As he comes to grips with the choices that he made in his past, he gets a renewed since of determination to fight for his life rather than wait to die in the cavern. This determination is what drives Ralston to make the ultimate sacrifice to survive.
Franco gives the best performance of his career in this film and buy the time you get to the climax you’re on pins and needles wondering what’s going to happen next (despite the fact that you already know the outcome). Boyle does a great job building suspense and dread in a film filled with such beauty in nature. It would be easy to depict nature as the evil culprit of the film but it is Ralston’s own self that is the evil that must be overcome. This is a prime example of a filmmaker who has come a long way since Trainspotting(1996), The Beach(200), 28 Days Later (2002), and Sunshine (2007).