You may or may not remember hearing about this true story a few years ago. 127 Hours is about Aron Ralston, who was a young adventurer who was hiking in Utah and got his hand trapped between a canyon wall and a giant rock. He was trapped there for (you guessed it) 127 hours until he decided to save himself by cutting his own arm off with a dull, rusty pocket knife and hiked back out of the desert. That's not a spoiler alert because if you're going to see this movie, you pretty much know what's going to happen. In fact, if you don't know that I'm glad I told you because it's intense. I heard someone say that, "to say 127 Hours isn't about the arm cutting scene is like saying Jaws isn't about the shark." That's true but only to an extent. Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, 28 Days Later) takes us on a journey so harrowing and awful that the only reason why it's watchable is because you know Aron survived. Again, not a spoiler because it says in the opening credits the movie is based on his book. From the second the boulder crushes his hand and he realizes he's trapped in that canyon, it's nothing but a film about claustrophia and helplessness. But there are two elements of the film that prevent it from getting boring. One is Boyle's unique style of aggressive filmmaking. His films feel like what Oliver Stone's used too. However, in 127 Hours it does feel unnecessary at times to have such jumpy editing and trippy, out-of-focus shots. The other is star James Franco (Milk, Pinneapple Express) giving the best performance of his career so far. If The Academy overlooks him for Best Actor, the entire awards should be ashamed. Franco brings so much energy, humor and heartbreak to a one-man tour-de-force that you ARE trapped down there with him. But you're not gonna get through the movie without a little blood on you because you have to make it through the arm-cutting scene. I'm a fan of horror movies and have seen my share of gore, but this was different. Boyle's directing makes that scene seem like a music video in the way that it's a solid 3-4 minutes that has odd angles, quick edits and strange music. It doesn't dwell on the gruesomeness but in a way that makes it more disturbing. But it's not just a splatter scene...it's art. Yes, this scene is almost impossible to watch but it's brimming with emotion. When I saw The Passion of The Christ by Mel Gibson, I cried during the crucifixtion scene. Not because I'm a Christian but because, as a fellow human being, it was so sad to know someone had to endure that much suffering. The arm-cutting scene in 127 Hours had the exact same effect on me and I wept while I cringed. The movie is about hope, not pain. It made me feel the way that Sean Penn's Into the Wild did, except this one is happier because Aron lived and Chris didn't. This film will make you appreciate your freedom, appreciate your family and appreciate your limbs. It's going to leave a stamp on your heart and soul, even if you want to get up and leave at some points.
127 Hours (Rated R)
Gavin Grade: A