Based on the true story of how outdoor-loving, energised Aron Ralston (James Franco) ended up being brought down to earth with a very big bang when a freak accident saw him stuck with his arm pinned by a large rock, director Danny Boyle once again brings us a fantastic movie and does so by overcoming both the fact that many will know how the story turns out and that the majority of the movie is, inevitably, spent in the company of one man.
Let me start this review by praising Franco, a man who I thought would always amount to nothing more than the broody, petulant Harry Osborn in the Spider-Man movies but who has certainly shown signs of great things since freeing himself from that particular web (pun very much intended). He gets you onside immediately here, which is vital, and his character is like a jack-in-the-box for the first 10-15 minutes, making it easier to forgive the many oversights that lead to his terrible predicament. Before leaving his home, Ralston rushed around without answering his phone and didn’t take an extra few moments to find a decent knife. He was an impulsive, unthinking, carefree guy who regrets it all later and says something at one point that sums up a very different perspective on the situation: “It’s me. I chose this. I chose all this. This rock… this rock has been waiting for me my entire life. It’s entire life, ever since it was a bit of meteorite a million, billion years ago. In space. It’s been waiting, to come here. Right, right here. I’ve been moving towards it my entire life.”
Because we’re stuck with Ralston, pinned by that rock, for the majority of the movie, director Danny Boyle uses every trick in the book to stop things from grinding to a halt. Ralston’s many hallucinatory moments are recreated (though, strangely enough, they are one of the movie’s main weaknesses, in my view) and one of the highlights of Franco’s great performance is the scene in which he interviews himself on videocamera and uses the interview host persona Ralston to mock just how dumb the interviewee Ralston has been.
The screenplay, co-written by Boyle and Simon Beaufoy and based on the book “Between A Rock And A Hard Place” written by Ralston himself, does what it needs to do but this is much more about the physical performance from Franco and the general weight (literally) of the central dilemma.
It may seem a little too dismissive to not mention anything about the supporting cast, the likes of Amber Tamblyn, Treat Williams and (blink and you’ll miss her) Lizzy Caplan appear, but they’re really not on screen for more than a few minutes at a time, making this a real one man show. Thankfully, that man is Franco and he’s able to carry the whole thing admirably with support from one of the best directors around.
A real story of courage, trauma and triumph of the human spirit, however cheesy that sounds, 127 Hours will appeal to those who enjoyed Touching The Void and Buried even if it’s a slightly inferior movie to both.
DIRECTOR: DANNY BOYLE
STARS: JAMES FRANCO
RUNTIME: 94 MINS APPROX