Starring: James Franco, Kate Mara, Amber Tamblyn

Director: Danny Boyle

Mountaineer Aron Ralston is involved in a freak accident and finds himself trapped under a rock at the arm. Unable to free himself, and with food, water and time running out, Aron slowly descends toward a terrible decision.

It’s the movie that most people I’ve talked to simply describe as ‘the one where the guy cuts his own arm off’, as if it were some extreme episode of Friends. However, Danny Boyle’s adaptation of Aron Ralston’s five-day ordeal, based on his own account, Between a Rock and a Hard Place, is clearly obliged to do more with its 90-minute running time than dwell on self-amputation. Thankfully, Boyle is more than capable of bringing out the human details.

James Franco gives us a likable character to follow on this journey. Ralston is friendly, a little goofy, and obviously loves his outdoor pursuits with a passion. A series of flashbacks throughout the movie, as Ralston reflects on his life, gives us the impression of an independent young man whose big mistake is neglecting to tell anyone where he’s going. The flashbacks gradually transform into vivid hallucinations as Aron’s water-deprived body and mind deteriorate, and reality becomes harder to distinguish from Aron’s fevered dreams of escape.

Boyle sets the scene well, his digital camera lapping up the spectacular scenery of the Utah location. This, coupled with Aron’s entertaining encounter with two female hikers, gives you a vivid understanding of why he does what he does. Up until the moment he takes a bad step, you want to be in his shoes. After that, of course, you give thanks to God that you’re not in them. However, Boyle’s intimate camera work and Franco’s sympathetic performance sure do everything they can to make you feel like you’re right there, and this is 127 Hours’ biggest success. Prepare to spend 90 minutes asking yourself one question. What would I do? You won’t have an easy answer, and by the time Aron reaches his final, desperate solution, you’ll be gritting your teeth, too.

One off the wrist. A farewell to arms. Ah, the crap gags are endless.

The problem with movies of this type is that you know where you’re going before you get there. That’s inevitable. Keeping the suspense up in a story to which the ending is known is no mean feat and you have to wonder what impact the resolution would have had if you didn’t know it was coming. And if 127 Hours has a weakness it is the possibility that everything which comes before its dénouement is lost slightly in the anticipation of it. Which would be a shame, because together Boyle and Franco have fashioned a solid, tense one-man show that would have been just as gripping if Ralston had emerged with all his limbs intact.

I just have one question. Soon after his accident, Aron takes his watch off, using his teeth because he only has that one arm free. Then, later on, his watch is back on his wrist. How?

Rating - 4 Stars

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