Overview: An adventurous man becomes trapped in the Utah desert while canyoneering. Fox Searchlight Pictures. 2010. Rated R. 94 Minutes.
The Will to Live: 127 Hours explores the strength of human instinct and spirit. Based on a true story, director Danny Boyle chronicles Aron Ralston’s (James Franco) harrowing experience of survival. While canyoneering in Utah, Ralston becomes trapped by a rock in a narrow canyon and struggles for five days to find a way out. Through those five days viewers see a dramatic change in Ralston; from arrogance, to anger, doubt, acceptance, desperation, and finally exaltation. An experienced, but overconfident outdoorsman, he fails to tell anyone where he is going, and we realize as he recalls this that by the time anyone finds him, he will surely be dead. As the days pass, we see him come to terms with his impending death; a death born out of his own arrogance. Following him through this traumatic and moving experience, we are ultimately witness to his triumph as he succeeds at what it truly means to be human; he succeeds at living.
The Range: Franco’s performance as Ralston is squeezed into the narrow canyon, and without the use of one arm, he has only the hindering rock and a small strip of sky above to keep him company. As the days pass and his supplies dwindle, he begins to reflect on his life and everything that brought him to this point. He hallucinates his freedom, fantasizes his future, and recalls his past. It’s in these moments where Franco’s range is displayed. As he struggles with sanity and consciousness he jovially role-plays a game show, himself as both host and contestant. Later, in a moment of perfect clarity, he records a loving, regretful message to his parents. All this is overcome when he exhibits a fierce grit and determination in freeing himself.
The Escape: The film is successful in depicting Ralston’s sacrificial escape without showing it directly. It’s presented through sound; the sound of his cries of pain and of a break that most of us have never heard, but it is unmistakable. Some viewers may have difficulties watching and listening, but through those long sounds of anguish are moments of pure triumph and overwhelming endurance.
Final Thoughts: 127 Hours is a moving, daring, and exploratory exercise in filmmaking. The film serves as a brave cinematic representation of individual perseverance, survival, and the power of the human spirit.