127 Hours: Movie Review
Cast: James Franco, Kate Mara, Amber Tamblyn
Director: Danny Boyle
So another Oscar contender heads for the big screen.
This time, James Franco gives an Oscar-nominated performance as Aron Ralston,
an American climber whose trip into the wild in 2003 changed his life forever
when he became trapped down a canyon, with his arm crushed against a wall with a
Ralston heads out to the canyons on a Friday night in April 2003, not telling
family or friends where he's going but simply out on the quest for
He meets two girls (Mara and Tamblyn) before his life changes when he falls
down a Utah canyon and is trapped by a boulder.
Over five days, his mental and physical health take their toll as Ralston
reflects back on his life and faces the ultimate look at his own mortality.
127 Hours is claustrophobic, uncomfortable viewing in the extreme - thanks to
one scene (more on that later).
But it's also terrific, with an undeniable energy and a mesmerising
performance from Franco as Ralston.
Given Franco's on screen for most of the film solo, he really needed to pull
out all the stops to chart the mental decline, hallucinations, guilt, and
memories that Ralston goes through, and he delivers in spades in this total
sensory experience of a film.
Every moment, as the camera tracks his wearying expressions, you can't tear
your eyes away from Franco; partially that's because of the inevitability of
knowing (slight spoiler ahead) he hacks off his own arm with a blunt knife to
Yet it's also a career best for Franco, who has presence aplenty and makes
Ralston a multi-faceted character who you care about - despite the guy's
fallacies, arrogance and cockiness. If Franco's great, the other star is
director Danny Boyle; his visual touches, the simply brilliant soundtrack, the
use of flashbacks and memories (as well as premonitions) just means you really
can't stop watching what's unfolding in front of you. It's a mightily impressive
look into the mind of someone who's falling apart and facing an horrific
So to that scene - the one which this film will become known for; the removal
of Ralston's arm at his own hand.
It's uncomfortable viewing but it's compelling too - I don't remember the
last time I sat in a cinema seat squirming and with nowhere to go, but it's so
well done (thanks to bone-crunching sound effects) that it delivers the shock it
needs and gives you the emotional and physical release you need after 80
minutes' worth of waiting.
The only real criticism is the jarring final shot of the real Ralston sat on
a couch with his wife - it's a real clunker and is becoming this year's fad for
true stories. It's really disappointing because it's almost as if the director's
saying: "Look we told you this was a true story - and here's the proof." It's
narratively flawed and really detracts from what Franco's delivered over the
past 90 minutes.
Despite this one flaw, 127 Hours is gut-wrenchingly good, a compelling watch
and an unbelievable performance from Franco.