An exhilarating 127 Hours

127 Hours (R)

Starring: James Franco

Directed By: Danny Boyle

1 Hour and 35 Minutes

*****

The film 127 Hours chronicles the true story of Aron Ralston, a hiker whose arm got pinned beneath a boulder for just over five days in April 2003. He was hiking in Blue John Canyon in Utah when he fell and his armed got crushed. He fell deep into a tiny crevice where no one could see him or hear his screams for help. To make matters worse, he told no one where he was going.

The film brilliantly brings Ralston’s story to life while faced with a seemingly impossible task: how do you tell a story that will interest an audience when it revolves around a single character being alone on screen for well over 85 percent of the film?

Superstar director Danny Boyle (“Slumdog Millionaire”) infuses the film with little touches that help complete this task. He let’s the audience into Ralston’s soul and puts us on the journey right with him. The unique camera angles allow us to experience Ralston’s every pain – instead of us seeing him run out of water, we get his lips cupping the bottle, sucking out every last drop. Every time he turns on his video camera, Boyle focuses on the gears turning within the device as it comes to life. And as the film progresses, Boyle fixates on the camera’s dwindling battery as it goes lower and lower, like Ralston, running out of time.

It wasn’t evident to me before seeing 127 Hours, but Danny Boyle is a master filmmaker. His unique approach took an otherwise very simple story and made it jump off the big screen and become a part of the audience. There were points in the film I was almost crying; jerking around in my seat uncomfortably because Boyle makes you feel. He makes you care and invests you in Ralston’s story. Boyle adds that all important human element that makes Ralston a person and not just some guy stuck between a rock and a hard place.

The other key to the success of the film is the masterful performance by James Franco. This is his breakthrough; a study in Hollywood finally taking him seriously as an actor. Franco is perfectly cast as Ralston – he injects his performance with the right amount of enthusiasm and dramatic intensity. As is the mark with any outstanding performance, you forget you’re watching Franco and believes he really is Ralston. Accomplishing that is near impossible, yet Franco does it with the ease of a seasoned professional. (Of course, Franco has been around for a while. He won a Golden Globe nine years ago when he played James Dean in a made for TV movie.)

But what really makes 127 Hours so powerful, are the life lessons woven throughout the story. When most people would’ve given up, Ralston had an unnatural will to survive that conquered even his deepest pain. This film is a study of just how tough we are and what we can endure before we finally break down and surrender. He was able to see a life beyond the rock that cost him his arm which made him want to live. We humans are tougher than we realize and the main lesson here is not to give up – even when life puts in situations that seem impossible to get out of.

127 Hours isn’t just another popcorn flick – it’s a brilliantly executed look at human spirit and the Aron Ralston inside all of us – that person we become in life’s toughest moments.

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