I have no problem admitting when I’m wrong, so I fully admit that my preconceived notions about 127 HOURS were completely off base. Since I’m familiar with Aron Ralston’s story, I thought that there’d be no way to make a movie about his hiking trip gone wrong. People familiar with the story were just going to be waiting for that one specific moment and those not familiar with the story would be floored when they saw it. But director Danny Boyle has crafted something here that’s special and the scene in question (I won’t say what it is in case you don’t know) was such a small part of the movie that it got lost in the overall message of the film.
Aron Ralston (James Franco) is a hiker by hobby and he sets out to hike through the Moab desert but when his hand is trapped by a falling rock, he becomes trapped in-between two crevices. That pretty much sums up the plot of the film and although I feel like a lot happens, we really spend 75% of the movie with just a camera and James Franco trapped in the desert. But the shocking thing is that it was incredible from start to finish. In fact, the lesser parts of the film all occurred before and after he was trapped. It’s the time we spend with Aron (you guessed it: 127 hours) that are captivating.
Danny Boyle did use some of his patented split screen style and fast editing to keep the film moving, much like what he did in SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE and he even used AR Rahman again to handle the score. I’m not sure this could have worked with a flat, straight-forward directing style, so Boyle was a great choice to tackle this project. He had good source material, but his innovative storytelling is what kept the audience interested. The majority of the film featured James Franco talking into a handheld camera between two crevices, so style was very important here.
As good of a job as Boyle did, it was Franco’s performance that kept the audience entranced. People are going to see different things in 127 HOURS as far as what happened. I saw a loner, over confident man find humility while faced with unfortunate and extreme circumstances and it wasn’t until that change that he was able to get free (that’s not a spoiler since the film is based on his book). Others are going to be inspired by Ralston’s refusal to give up and his determination to free himself. And there will of course be those people that point out Ralston was stupid for being as careless as he was and deserved what he got. But Boyle knew audiences would react in different ways, which is why we saw Ralston go through such a broad change that even included him acknowledging his stupidity earlier in the film.
Regardless of how you look at it, this character transforms right before our eyes in a very honest, revealing fashion that’s both inspiring and frightening. We all know what has to happen for him to live, but we still find ourselves hoping for a different outcome. I wasn’t sure Danny Boyle could pull this off, but I was sorely mistaken as Boyle has made one of the best films of 2010.