127 Hours – Ouch!

127 Hours tells the true story of Aron Ralston, who one day decided to go rock climbing alone, in the middle of nowhere, without telling anyone where he was going. He has a long time to think about why this is a bad idea after a loose boulder falls and pins his right arm against a canyon. The film’s premise is simple enough: A man is put in a terrible situation which he has to try to survive.

How do you make a 90-minute movie about a guy pinned by a boulder? The premise of 127 Hours makes for a movie with massive limitations, both in location and cast, but somehow it manages to work with these limitations and succeed in spite of them.

In the opening few minutes of the film, we are treated to some extraordinary, breathtaking shots of Canyonlands National Park in Utah. The world of 127 Hours feels great, glorious and magnificent as Ralston bicycles and hikes through the wilderness without a care in the world. Once the dreaded boulder falls, however, everything changes; the world feels a whole lot smaller when you’re stuck in one place. The stark contrast between the film’s opening and most of its running time, I think, is part of what makes the drama of Aron Ralston’s situation feel so dire.

I don’t think that as an audience we would really care all that much about Ralston’s situation if we didn’t care first about him. So much of the film rests on the shoulders of its star, James Franco. Fortunately, Franco does manage to make us care. Franco’s portrays Ralston as an easy-going, fun-loving and generally likable guy, not a saint by any stretch of the imagination, but still a generally likable guy.

What happens to Ralston during this film is traumatizing to say the least, and it’s not the graphic nature of what he has to go through in order to survive that makes one flinch, it’s the fact that this is all happening to a character that we as an audience have been watching and getting to know for the entire duration of the movie. What makes this film work is its ability to elicit feelings from its audience.

In 127 Hours, Ralston is put in a terrible situation and forced to deal with it. Similarly, the people who made this film were given a film with incredible limitations and tried to make the best movie from it that they could. 127 Hours is a straightforward, rock-solid film.