Starring: James Franco, Amber Tamblyn, Kate Mara
Directed by: Danny Boyle (“Slumdog Millionaire”)
Written by: Simon Beaufoy (“Slumdog Millionaire”) and Danny Boyle (debut)
If the only reason you’re questioning whether or not to see Academy Award-winning director Danny Boyle’s newest film “127 Hours” is because of the graphic amputation scene supposedly causing audiences to pass out in their popcorn, that’s not a good enough reason to skip one of the best films of the year. Suck it up, skip the snack, and go on this stylish journey of survival and self-discovery as soon as possible.
“127 Hours” is based on the true story of adventurer Aron Ralston, who in 2003 gets his arm caught between a boulder and a canyon wall in Utah and lives to tell about it after he makes the brave decision to cut through his own limb to free himself.
Trapped in the crevice for more than five days, we watch as Aron (James Franco in the best performance of his career) uses the few tools he has to chip away at the rock pinning him down, conserves the little food and water he’s brought along into the isolated canyons, and slowly lose all hope as the days get longer and nights get colder.
Through compelling flashback scenes and others where Aron hallucinates, Boyle makes some remarkable directorial choices to help us understand exactly the situation Aron has found himself in. Unlike the film “Buried” where our main character spends 90 minutes literally laying in a coffin, Boyle takes audiences deeper than just the idea of how claustrophobic the experience is.
Boyle allows us to enter the mind of our protagonist and into the crevice itself. When he takes short drinks from his water bottle, we’re aware of just how much time he has left. When he holds a sincere conversation with himself or records a message on his camcorder, we become transfixed in Aron’s need to escape and his acceptance of his own mortality.
Franco captures this through an emotionally-charged performance that will surely earn him an Oscar nomination. It’s a role unlike anything we’ve ever seen him in before and one that will truly be labeled as career definining when all is said and done. “127 Hours” is a fascinating example of what an actor can do with a intense screenplay and so little room to maneuver.
As graphic as the final scene is, it is not gratuitous. By that time, you will be so invested in Aron the pain he feels during these excruciating moments will become all too real. Boyle doesn’t let up and the film is all the better for having a director bold enough to make those tough decisions.