We here in Utah are pretty familiar with the story of Aron Ralston. Aron went out on his own in the Southern Utah wilderness only to find himself trapped in a deep crevasse. As he descended Ralston knocked a rock loose. He and the rock fell. When he hit the bottom the rock had wedged itself against the canyon wall with Aron’s hand trapped between the canyon wall and the rock. It was now impossible to move. He was stuck.
Aron travels around doing motivational speeches now. Talking to all sorts of people about his experience. See, what makes Aron’s experience special is not only that he lived through it, but how he was able to survive. Aron amputated his own arm with a pocket knife to get free and find help, but only after he was stuck there for a little over five days. It’s a harrowing real-life story that has now been put to film with the help of Academy Award winning director Danny Boyle. Boyle has crafted a film that bears his hyper-stylized signature that seemed to become fully apparent in Slumdog Millionaire. Quick cuts, overly saturated colors, and lucid dream sequences are Boyle’s style and it makes this movie shine.
James Franco (Pineapple Express) plays the energetic Aron Ralston who lives only to hike and bike in the outdoors. Aron is one of those people that feel like they know everything. He sets out on his journey without telling anyone. He can do everything on his own. He fails to answer a call from his mother before he leaves. He neglects to tell his boss where he’ll be travelling for the weekend. Finally his whole “Me, me, me,” attitude has caught up to him.
After Aron becomes trapped the rest of the movie is about how he was able to survive and stay sane. Franco is the perfect person to play the role. He is able to tap into Aron’s humor which he keeps throughout the situation, but he’s also able to convey some deep emotion as he sits there essentially waiting to die if he can’t get himself free.
Yes, the movie does indeed focus on the amateur amputation of Aron’s arm. You can feel the movie building to that scene and you will find yourself cringing, expecting that at any moment he’s going to start sawing off his own arm with a dull pocket knife. I’m not going to lie, it’s tough to watch, but with Boyle’s quick cuts and stylized way of shooting the scene it’s bearable.
Much of the movie plays out like a glorified public service announcement about what to not do when you go hiking. Aron learns from his mistakes and as he’s stuck he realizes that he’s got to change his ways if he ever escapes this horrible fate. 127 Hours isn’t for everyone. Like I said that one scene in particular is really graphic and may cause nausea for some people. With that said this is definitely a great film. Boyle’s direction is fast-paced and relentless. He’s able to turn a real-life experience of a man sitting in a canyon waiting to die, into a introspective character study that will keep you riveted even though the main character is planted firmly in one spot for almost the entire film.