Bloody hell! It made me squirm, grit my teeth and in the end it even made me cry. It was bloody brilliant!
One weekend Aaron Ralston (James Franco) sets out on a hiking, climbing trip, without telling anyone where he’s going.Whilst canyoneering alone near Moab, Utah he becomes trapped under a boulder and resorts to desperate measures in order to survive his 127 hours ordeal.
I guess the obvious way to tackle this subject might be a documentary like Touching the Void (also brilliant and thematically very similar.) But Danny Boyle goes for a dramatic, totally immersive cinematic approach.
The film is kinetic from start to finish, a non stop ride, that reflects Ralston personality. Even in the potentially boring mid section of a guy stuck under a rock for fifty minutes, they have created such well planned, flowing scenes and brilliant original visual conceits, that the film never flags for a moment. They exploit every prop and angle and sound to make things continually move forward at an adrenaline inducing pace. The editing cleverly mixes the flashbacks and the present, and as Aaron become more and more disorientated sounds and people bleed from the past directly into the canyon around him. James Franco gives a stellar performance, on screen constantly for the whole movie he is totally real, engaging and believable.
Aaron realises how selfish he’s been and how he loves his life and family too much to give up. He decides he can’t die here alone in this canyon. So he cuts off his own arm in order to escape.
It’s a classic story of death and rebirth. In order to move on and survive you have to make the difficult choice to leave part of yourself behind. Although here that part has to be literally hacked off with a blunt penknife in gruesome bloody, bone crunching, nerve jangling detail.
In an uplifting ending he staggers into the light of the trail and is helped back to the world by people – friendly hikers and I bawled my eyes out when we saw him with his friends and family at the end, because he’d looked death and despair in the face and in the end (to quote another Danny Boyle film) ‘he chose life.’