Upon hearing the premise of the film “127 Hours,” one might ask, “How could someone make a decent movie featuring one man and a rock?” The answer is only under the direction of Danny Boyle, fresh off his success directing “Slumdog Millionaire,” and the superb acting of James Franco (“Spider-Man” and “Pineapple Express”).
Franco takes on the role of Aron Ralston, an eccentric hiker who embarks on a solo hike through the backcountry of Utah without letting any close friends or family know that he is gone.
At the beginning of the movie, the audience is introduced to Ralston, whose zest for life borders on insanity. His hubris leads him to believe he is almost invincible, until one falling boulder quickly reminds him, and the audience, just how wrong he is.
“127 Hours” is a clear indication of how far James Franco has come as an actor. Gone is the whiny Harry Osborne from the “Spider-Man” series or the goofy stoner from “Pineapple Express.” Franco’s portrayal of Aron Rolston should be the character that Franco is known for and hopefully lands him an Academy Award.
Despite having essentially one setting and one character, Boyle does not let off the gas pedal for a moment during this film. I was skeptical as to how the director would keep the plot moving, but Boyle’s cinematography ensures that the audience will not simply be staring at a man and a rock. Humorous moments illustrate Ralston’s character and personality and break up some of the most intense scenes, while keeping the audience from feeling like the film is being dragged out.
He also features unique camera angles, from within a water bottle or camcorder reel to wide-open landscape shots that emphasize just how isolated Rolston was during his struggle, which keep the film fresh. Similarly, the camera changes from being attached to Rolston, as though he filmed the whole thing himself, to a view through the camcorder he carries with him, to still shots as though a camera crew is following him.
The soundtrack behind “127 Hours” is perfect during both humorous and intense scenes. Upbeat rock music mirrors Rolston’s overly optimistic faith in his hiking ability, while moments of complete silence enable the audience to realize how isolated Rolston was for so long.
The accident happens so early in the film that audiences do not quite have a grasp of Rolston’s life or character before his trip. Boyle develops Franco’s character through the use of flashbacks and fantasies. Small things in Rolston’s surroundings trigger memories from his childhood and life before his accident that serve as his primary motivation to endure.
Set over the course of roughly five days, Boyle excels at showing the psychological strain of Rolston as he engineers ways to free himself, faces the elements and slowly comes to terms with the thought that he may die at the bottom of a canyon without being able to fully appreciate his family, friends or life beyond renegade mountain climbing.
Viewers should bear in mind that “127 Hours” is not for the faint of heart. The movie earns its R rating as you are watching the physical and mental deterioration of a man in potentially fatal conditions. Simply watching one man fight for survival, and going from the logical ways to escape to the unthinkable, will hit every nerve in your body.
The fact that this film is based on a true story makes the most intense scenes and psychological breakdown of Rolston all the more realistic.
Trying to describe “127 Hours” in one word would be doing the film a disservice as it treats viewers to a mental and emotional ride. It may keep some from ever going hiking again. However, the magnitude of this film accurately shows how fragile the human body is while displaying how strong the will of the human mind can be.
Rating: 5 out of 5