Director(s): Danny Boyle
Writer(s): Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy
Cast: James Franco, Kate Mara, Amber Tamblyn, Treat Williams and Kate Burton
Reviewed by: Christine Lambert on
Release Date(s)Jan 28, 2011 - Wide
When a film is based on a true story, a story that has made the rounds of news wires and talk shows, a story that everyone is familiar with because of the extraordinary outcome, that movie better offer something great. This is the case of 127 Hours.
127 Hours is the story of Aron Ralston, a cayoneer who sets off on his own one day only to end up with his arm pinned by a boulder in southeastern Utah. No surprise, the 127 hours represents the time he was trapped.
It was April 25, 2003 when Aron went off to Cayonlands National Park. Still at home, he ignores his phone and lets the answering machine do its thing. The next day, April 26th, he comes across two female hikers Kristi (Kate Mara) and Megan (Amber Tamblyn). Aron offers to show the girls an alternate route to their destination. One part of the trip includes a free fall in one of the narrow canyons into a pool of water. This results in Aron’s video camera being used to document the trio and their repeated drops into the water. Before they separate, Kristi and Megan invite Aron to a party they are having.
Aron continues on his own to Blue John Canyon. When he descends into a narrow passage, a boulder comes loose and pins his right arm against the the side of the canyon wall. He screams for help and uses the near useless tools he has with him to chip away at the boulder to no avail.
127 Hours is driven by the performance of James Franco. Even though there are other players in this film like Mara, Tamblyn and Treat Williams, it is Franco’s near solo performance that shows Aron’s desperation and will to live. That will was not always there, as doubts and hallucinations play a big part in Aron’s existence in the canyon, but Franco was able to switch emotional gears which showed the harried conditions of such a precarious situation. Keeping an audience interested in a story is one thing, to do it when the outcome is known is another and when every scene hinges on one actor it becomes harder still. The direction of Danny Boyle perfectly illustrates the isolation and desperation felt by Aron. The long sweeping shots of the canyon leave the audience with the kind of loneliness one can only imagine.
The anticipated scene of freedom is as gruesome as one would expect. There are no short cuts (sorry) during this shot and it leaves one in awe about how he then propelled himself out of the canyon.
127 Hours works on many levels of emotion. It makes one think of the depths they would go to save their own lives. As in the case of Aron, self-reflection takes place. It makes one wonder if the unimaginable happened and they were in a similar situation, how would they handle it? It makes one appreciate the loved ones they have and the life they live. It makes one remember to always tell at least one person where you are going, something Aron didn’t do which is revealed early in his isolation.