The familiar phrase "between a rock and a hard place" is given a whole new meaning in this inspirational and captivating film, as we reluctantly witness now-famous climber Aron Ralston's struggle to release his arm from between a canyon wall and a boulder. 'Slumdog Millionaire's Danny Boyle goes in an entirely different artistic direction with this true story (it's a far cry from the streets of Mumbai), and yet still manages to make us identify with Ralston and his emotions - as only a gifted filmmaker can.
Ralston (Franco) finds himself in an unprecedented fight for survival deep inside an isolated canyon in Utah. Over the next 127 hours, he finally realises his courage and determination to get back to the ones he loves, with flashback sequences featuring two girls he met shortly before his accident (Mara and Tamblyn) and a mistreated ex-girlfriend (Poésy). Finally, Ralston frees his arm in the most awe-inspiring/gruesome way possible.
'127 Hours' is the embodiment of choosing life over death. What would you do, and how far would you go to survive? As the boulder slams down and pins Ralston to the canyon, the title flashes on the screen. It's a shocking moment of realisation for Ralston, but also for the audience. A man, who seems to think he is invincible, is trapped in the wilderness with nothing but a camcorder and a small tankard of water. In the hands of other directors this could have ended up as a Hollywood extravaganza, instead of the simple and emotive film Boyle has made.
Franco was a genius choice for the role of Ralston. Not only does he have the vigorous energy that is required, but his humour is a much-needed distraction from the gravity of the situation and the intensity of each scene. While each supporting actor is significant in their own right, it is generally a one-man-show that Franco makes his own. A scene filled with a hallucinating Ralston on his own chat show provides us with an insight into just what was running through the climber's head at the time, and it's the way he deals with his predicament that makes for such a fascinating watch.
Boyle's use of sound to transport us into the canyon is spectacular, if not sometimes a little stomach-churning. As Ralston experiences excruciating pain so do we. As he chops off his arm we flinch and convulse. It has been said that many have fainted during the gruesome amputation, and I have to admit that I averted my eyes at that point. One glance at a vein protruding from a bloody arm was enough to keep my hands firmly placed over my eyes for a few minutes. It's a horrible yet realistic scene - just as you'd expect.
'127 Hours' is a hard film to watch, but don't be put off. The breathtaking scenery mixed with the character's personal journey will keep you in your seat long into the final credits, contemplating what you have just seen.