Much like 2003’s Phone Booth, the strength in 127 Hours lies in the intensity of its star’s performance. And James Franco’s performance will go down as one of the greatest of a generation.
The film – helmed by Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire director Danny Boyle – is based on the remarkable true story of Aron Ralston, an avid hiker and mountain climber who becomes trapped underneath a boulder while on a solo hiking expedition in a Utah canyon. To free himself, he amputates his arm using a blunt Leatherman knockoff, still managing to hike around eight miles before he’s finally rescued.
The beauty of this film is not in the plot. Ralston’s story is well-known and the film itself is based on Ralston’s autobiography Between a Rock and a Hard Place. But Boyle manages to take an almost legendary story and film it in such a way that even though you know he’s going to be okay, your heart is in your mouth for most of the film. It’s terrifying, awe-inspiring and a truly intense experience.
Even though the majority of 127 Hours is filmed in a cramped, dusty space, Boyle manages to keep the film moving at a rollicking pace. The movie starts imbued with a sense of pure joy – Ralston loves what he does, and he’s such a frequent hiker he doesn’t even bother to tell anybody where he’s going anymore. He runs into two female hikers and leads them on a side-trip to a massive waterhole, before jogging back over the mountains on his way. “I don’t think we figured in his day at all,” they quip – and it’s true.