Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours follows the real life story of Aron Ralston, a keen outdoor-type, played by James Franco, whose right arm gets trapped between a boulder and a rock wall in Utah in 2003.

Going into the movie, I expected an average docudrama with little idea how Boyle could make a whole movie with only one character in one place a worthwhile watch, but I was pleasantly surprised.

One day in 2003, Ralston goes hiking in Blue John Canyon near Moab, Utah, where he finds himself away from the daily struggles of life and free to enjoy nature. Apart from a brief encounter with two lost female hikers, he is completely on his own. Once he sends the women off on their way, Ralston hikes through a narrow ravine when a boulder dislodges and pins his right arm against a rock wall. At this point the story begins to unfold, with Franco delivering a remarkable performance by getting its viewers to understand not only the physical challenge, but more so the emotional challenge, involved in making life or death decisions.

Ralston remains trapped for 5 days, trying everything from kicking the boulder to trying to lift it to remove his hand from behind the boulder. With only one bottle of water and a blunt penknife, Ralston is hard pressed to find the tools he needs to move the boulder away from his hand. As he starts chipping away at the boulder and starts running out of water, delirium sets in, letting the viewer truly understand the horrific torture Ralston has to conquer in order to survive. Throughout the movie, we see flashbacks and dream sequences that further demonstrate the state Ralston is in and briefly takes away the viewer from the ordeal only to smack you in the face with reality.

As he runs out of water and has to resort to drinking his own urine to battle dehydration, Ralston accepts that the only way he is going to survive this is to cut off his own arm. While he had already tried cutting his arm off with the blunt knife, he finds himself having to break his own bones, using the pliers to cut through his tendons and the knife to cut through soft tissue. This scene is nothing for the faint-hearted, but further boosts Franco’s incredible performance.

Franco’s performance is outstanding and a true Oscar-contender. He goes through the motions of sanity and hope right through to desperation couples with hallucinations. Franco could’ve easily blown this movie having the entire focus of the movie on him, but he stepped up his game and delivers something that should be recognised and awarded. There’s further pressure having to portray someone who’s not only alive, but has had to go through a situation so hellish it is impossible to imagine. Franco portrays Ralston as a very likeable character, who is full of life. His facial expressions are honest and credible and the audience can only sympathise with his feelings from thinking about where he should be (partying with the two girls he met earlier on) and how he should have told more people where he’d be (telling the shop assistant in the outdoor store).

With 127 Hours, Danny Boyle has once again created a compelling masterpiece that is definitely one of this year’s must-see – if you can handle  watching Ralston’s excruciating physical and mental pain. Both Boyle and Franco have managed to bring Ralston’s story to life by turning a horrific story into a film about extraordinary human triumph. Most importantly, Boyle touches the viewer’s emotions that leaves you feeling shaken but in awe that one person could be strong enough to endure this kind of pain. An Oscar worthy performance by James Franco and further proof that Danny Boyle is one of the most talented directors of our time.