The director, writer and producer of the 2008 Academy Award Best Picture winner, Slumdog Millionaire, team up once again in the new, true story inspired, 127 Hours. 127 Hours could not be further from the setting of Slumdog, replacing the dense metropolis of Mumbai with a claustrophobic canyon in the middle of Utah. Instead of an overabundance of characters in a billion plus people in India, this film is practically a one-man film based on Aron Ralston’s (played by James Franco) life-changing experience.
Based on the book “Between a Rock and a Hard Place,” Danny Boyle’s direction of this film is void of any special effects, inter-character melodrama or artificial romance; instead, simply put, it focuses on the raw instinctual emotion of human survival. Aron, a wild and carefree adventurer, decides to go on a biking/hiking trip without letting anyone know of his destination – a mistake no one who has seen this movie or read the real story will ever make again. His fate, predictable from the first few minutes of the film, is sealed early in the movie – perhaps too early. Without enough time to reveal anything about Aron, save his first name, one is left with 90 minutes of wondering if you know him enough to care about his outcome.
As you go through Aron’s journey and inevitable trips through his memory lane, you begin to root for him and wonder what you would do in such a predicament. His thought process and problem-solving skills are believable and honest. Franco spent time with the real Ralston to prepare him for the role. “One of the reasons I wanted to do this role is because it is made up of so many little personal moments, those moments we all have when you’re completely alone,” he says. Franco is wonderful in this desert version of Castaway. Being in nearly every frame of the film, in suffocating tight quarters, Franco penetrates the situation Aron finds himself in. For his efforts, I suspect Franco will be recognized for his raw, revealing depiction come award season.
Boyle’s style at times, with weird split screens reminiscent of 90’s movies such as Reality Bites, feels unnatural. The scenes seem more fitting on the XGames, which is probably the point, but just feels off.
Also, this film is not for the weak stomach or those squeamish at the sight of blood and bodily fluids. At times, due to the realitiy of the situation, a viewer is left to wonder if they are watching 127 hours or Saw 3D. In the end, Boyle does a superb job of conveying an inspiration tale of survival in this highly unusual film, albeit for the digestively strong viewer.
127 Hours releases on Friday, November 5 and is rated R.