The incredible real-life story of Aron Ralston is brought to life by Danny Boyle in 127 Hours. Ralston, a keen outdoorsman, was involved in a canyoneering accident in 2003 that left his right hand pinned to a canyon wall by an immovable boulder. Miles from anywhere with just a camcorder, climbing gear and minimal provisions, Aron is faced with an impossible decision; die of starvation/thirst or amputate his trapped hand with a blunt pocket knife.
With the bulk of the film centred on just one man and his horrific ordeal, 127 Hours’ chance of success rested squarely on the shoulders of James Franco. Fortunately, Franco is superb. It’s an outstanding performance that portrays a Ralston who is almost arrogant, but charming and amiable. An effective use of Franco’s natural charisma. There’s an air of authenticity to Franco here that cannot be understated. Euphoria, shock, delirium and unimaginable pain are all very real feelings that Aron undoubtedly felt in real life, feelings that are expertly acted out.
Franco’s portrayal of Ralston’s remarkable courage is captured perfectly by Danny Boyle. With a lesser director at the helm, 127 Hours could have been duller than Ralston’s knife, but Boyle wrings out every last drop of content from such a simple story. There’s little in the way of backstory, instead we’re provided with just enough information to be able to create our own opinions on all involved. The result is a tidy, streamlined, stylish film that leaves a lasting impression, and not just because of the difficult-to-watch amputation scene.
127 Hours is more than just the story of one man’s cast-iron will to survive against impossible odds; it’s his realisation that in living a solitary life, he is missing out on the best things that life has to offer. It’s a lesson that everyone should learn, a lesson that Aron Ralston literally gave his right hand for.