Who would have thought a movie about a guy being stuck between a rock and a wall for almost a week would be so fun to watch? Danny Boyle’s impressive follow-up to Slumdog Millionaire displays incredible style along with a career-defining performance from James Franco. You’ll be stunned, enthralled and triumphant when the credits roll even though you probably already know how it ends.
The films deals with the incredible true life story of mountain climber Aron Ralston, who had his right arm crushed by an 800 lb boulder and pinned to a canyon wall. After five days, he amputated his arm with a tw0-inch multi-tool blade, and miraculously lived to tell the tale. 127 Hours was a favorite to win the Oscar for Best Picture at the 2010 Academy Awards, and I can see why. Boyle has a visual flair that makes his films a thrill to watch, and this one was no different. The film takes place almost entirely between two slabs of rock, but there is never a dull moment. We see Ralston’s attempts to remove himself from the rock, but we’re also given hallucinations, flashbacks, camcorder footage and other narrative and visual tools to shake up the experience. The cinematography in the film is GORGEOUS, and almost does the impossible: make Utah seem like a place you want to be. The shots of the canyons and landscape are rendered beautifully and absolutely take the breath away. It’s a shame Anthony Dod Mantle wasn’t even nominated for Best Cinematography.
Aron Ralston himself has said that besides the scenes with the two girls in the beginning of the film, 127 Hours is as close as it gets to being a documentary of his story while remaining a drama. The movie never strays from its source material in an attempt to make it more accessible. Everything you see happens as it actually happened. For the majority of the film, it’s just Franco and a rock. This would be an intimidating scenario for any actor, to have to basically carry an entire movie with your performance. But Franco does so with flying colors, delivering an exuberant yet haunting portrayal of the real-life mountaineer.
Finally, the moment you’ve been waiting for finally comes. During the film’s screenings on the festival circuit and during its initial run, there were reports of fainting and vomiting in response to the amputation scene. While I certainly cringed and shuddered a few times, Boyle does his best to lighten the mood by splicing in sounds from the Operation! game, and by never letting the frame hover for too long on the gory stuff. Nonetheless, the scene is difficult to watch (my girlfriend hid her eyes the entire time) and those bothered easily by gore should be wary. But after 60 seconds or so of torture, our protagonist frees himself from the boulder and tragedy turns to triumph. The scene is riveting, and the payoff is satisfying. I let out a genuine sigh of relief after he freed himself, and you can’t help but root as hard as you can for poor Aron Ralston even though you know everything ends up alright for him.
It’s sure to make you squirm, likely to move you, and guaranteed to inspire you. 127 Hours is one of 2010’s best films, and while it’s not worthy of the Best Picture trophy, it’s sure as hell better than The King’s Speech. If you’re like me and took forever to watch this movie, I recommend you follow my lead and do it right now.