A film directed by Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, Shallow Grave, Slumdog Millionaire) which concerns the real story of the outdoorsy character of Aron Ralston (here played by James Franco) who, whilst out mountain biking, hiking, climbing and canyoning in a national park in Utah, got his hand wedged behind a falling boulder. The 127 hours of the title refer to the amount of time he spent there before reaching a somewhat inevitable tough decision.
Starting with some busy and exuberant montages of crowds of people (slightly reminiscent of Slumdog for some reason!) we follow Aron heading out into the wilderness. The following day he encounters a couple of girls out hiking and flirtily shows them the area he loves. They invite him to a party the following evening and he bowls off in the distance listening to music and feeling quite pleased with himself before the accident happens.
From this (quite early) point onwards we remain in the deep crevice with Aron for a long time. This has the potential to be stifling, claustrophobic and, quite frankly very dull, but it is none of these things at all. James Franco’s performance is brilliant and utterly compelling: at different times funny, desperate, inventive, reflective, incredibly emotional and very focused and brave. You are in the crevice with him and experiencing every one of his emotions. And Danny Boyle knows exactly how long to stick with something before moving on to keep the experience interesting.
As someone who has been out mountain biking and even climbing by myself I thought it really expressed well what happens when you’re literally alone for a period of time (looping music in your head, small victories meaning the world, emotions being exaggerated). These things happen after a couple of days by yourself, so if you’re trapped behind a rock, alone, dehydrating with no way out for 127 hours (over 5 days) I can only begin to imagine how intense they are and where your head goes, but the film made this quite explicit and believable. The character starts to look back at his immediate decisions and even his long-term approach to people in his life and sees them almost as a direct cause of his present situation.
By the time it comes to the resolution of the situation you’re so with Aron that you feel everything that he feels. This part, although it only lasts a minute or so and doesn’t show much gore, is so powerfully acted, efficiently shot and complemented aurally that you find yourself cringing – I can’t think of when I last felt like looking away during a film, but I nearly did here.
Overall though its an incredibly uplifting film. It’s not taking someone who’s a complete idiot and transforming them to a saint, and it’s not ramming a preachy message down your throat, it’s taking a man who has a few flaws (like all of us) and who perhaps neglects the people that are important to him a little, who realises this and uses it as strength to his mental armoury in getting out and back to them. Much more ‘the feel-good film of the year’ than Slumdog Millionaire, which is amazingly how The News Of The World described that film!
Not for the faint hearted, but an almost flawless film.
5 on 5
Directed by: Danny Boyle
Starring: James Franco
UK Release: 7th January 2011