Photo courtesy Fox Searchlight Pictures
Directed by: Danny Boyle
Starring: James Franco
Showing at: Landmark Uptown Theatre
ItâÄôs safe to say that, even in a life-or-death situation, itâÄôs a special kind of man that can lop off his own arm with a dulled knife in the interest of survival. Few among us can say, with absolute conviction, that we possess the fortitude to commit such an act (hell, most of us find it difficult to walk to class in the morning). But thatâÄôs what Aron Ralston did back in 2003 when a rock crushed his hand, pinning him inside a remote Utah canyon for nearly five days.
In the film dramatization, âÄú127 Hours,âÄù Aron Ralston (James Franco) is portrayed as a fun-loving, Phish-listening, bike riding, outdoors enthusiast âÄî âÄúone of those,âÄù says a young woman he happens to meet in the middle of nowhere. Ralston assumes the guise of a guide, showing the woman and her pal the sights with which heâÄôs become so familiar, displaying his readiness and survival instincts for the audience. Of course, we already know whatâÄôs going to happen, so each of RalstonâÄôs small missteps, forgotten, potentially life-saving items and unwittingly foreshadowing banter causes us to cringe, causes us to hope for an outcome thatâÄôs different from the inevitable one.
Shortly after leaving the two ladies, Ralston falls into a canyon and gets his arm lodged between the canyon wall and an immoveable boulder. Ralston doesnâÄôt panic; he doesnâÄôt scream out in pain; he simply freezes as his mind struggles to understand the situation.
ItâÄôs not hard to imagine a moving picture about an immobilized hippie to be less than electrifying, but the story is so compelling and FrancoâÄôs acting is so trenchant that it becomes hard not to sink into the movie, marvel at RalstonâÄôs determination and wonder what weâÄôd do if dealt the same hand. Franco once again shows that heâÄôs more than just a pretty boy, sinking his teeth into a difficult role as heâÄôs done for the past few years and offering a considerable amount of both levity and gravitas.
Director Danny Boyle (âÄúSlumdog Millionaire,âÄù âÄúTrainspottingâÄù) brings his customary visual style to âÄú127 Hours,âÄù dusting the film with flair thatâÄôs at times irritating, but generally inspiring. Boyle shoots at crooked angles, splits screens, speeds through filler and juxtaposes the frenetic hustle and bustle of city life to the stark and looming isolation of Blue John Canyon. His shots are purposeful, but maybe a bit too blatant. Showing the inside of RalstonâÄôs water bottle, while novel, only expresses that water will be important, which anyone with even a fundamental grasp of their own thirstiness will already understand. This just takes the viewer out of the movie for a cheap hint.
Still, for the most part, BoyleâÄôs vision is absorbing, reaching peaks of harsh reality and clever surrealism. BoyleâÄôs last flick, âÄúSlumdog Millionaire,âÄù may have been severely overrated, but his effort here, combined with FrancoâÄôs delivery and an inspirational source, is actually worthy of praise.