Sassy Laura and I resumed our commemoration of Good Movie Season with a recent Saturday morning screening of "127 Hours," the film adaptation of "Between a Rock and a Hard Place," the autobiography chronicling the now-famous account of an adventurer whose right arm becomes trapped under a boulder while hiking alone in the Utah desert. The film, co-written and directed by Danny Boyle ("Slumdog Millionaire"), stars James Franco ("Spider-Man" trilogy, "Pineapple Express") as brash climber Aron Ralston.
The opening scene of "127 Hours" cuts through a hasty packing session as twenty-seven-year-old Aron Ralston readies himself for a weekend adventure in Utah's Bluejohn Canyon. With little more than a couple of bottles of Gatorade and some Hostess snacks, Ralston climbs into his jeep and sets out for the desert, his answering machine wildly chewing tape in the background. Shortly after his arrival amidst the sublime Utah terrain, Ralston encounters two female hikers who appear lost. After spending some time flirting and swimming together in a hidden watering hole, the trio exchange pleasantries and separate, with Ralston jogging deeper into the desert. A short time later, while attempting to traverse a tricky bit of terrain, Ralston inadvertently dislodges a boulder during a fall into a deep crevasse. In the aftermath, it becomes apparent that the boulder, having landed on his right arm, has trapped him out of plain sight in an already barren stretch of wilderness. With a small jug of water as his only means of sustenance, he begins to realize the weight of his situation. As days pass, an exhausted and dehydrated Ralston decides that his only chance at survival is to cut off his own arm.
Before I saw "127 Hours," I strained to contemplate a quality feature-length film focusing almost entirely on one character standing in one place. "127 Hours," however, doesn't feel stationary. In truth, it very much feels like a thriller, though instead of a gun-toting psychopath, Ralston is pitted against the hastening realization that he's standing in his grave.
Franco's name will undoubtedly grace many an award ballot in the coming months and deservedly so. With the bulk of the film on his shoulders, Franco morphs his sandstone prison into more than a set piece—it becomes a villain. Even in moments of humorous hallucination, Franco instills a subtle sense of guilt, as if he's laughing at his own eulogy. As the painful acceptance of his satiation creeps slowly in, Franco exudes a feeling of despair so deep that I actually believed he'd cut off his own right arm to escape it.
Certainly, one can't discuss "127 Hours" without giving mention to the infamous "amputation scene" that's rumored to have caused more than one medical situation at theaters around the globe. While I can't comment on the realistic nature of the scene in question because my vision was purposely obscured by a well-placed sweatshirt, the sounds of the act, as well as the audience, were more than convincing.
From beginning to end, "127 Hours" is a remarkably engaging film about a man so enamored with life that he would go to unimaginable measures to escape death. And although I wouldn't give my right arm to see "127 Hours" again, I'd definitely pay $11.