'127 Hours' Review: Director Danny Boyle, Leading Man James Franco Create a Masterpiece

“Aron, do not lose it.” After being trapped alone in a crevice with one hand stuck beneath a boulder, the main character in the new film "127 Hours" says this to himself while trying to remain calm. He doesn’t know if he’ll survive but he knows that without adequate food and water, he could lose his sense of reality. The captivating story about Aron’s struggle to escape from the boulder that traps him is a beautifully directed, masterfully told story about a man determined not to die.

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The story begins with Aron Ralston (James Franco) leaving his apartment to go biking. As he rides off into a desert, he is exhilarated. The music in this scene is energetic and overwhelming, like the sense of adventure that drives Ralston. Aron hasn’t told anyone where he’s going. He’s looking to have fun and he finds exactly that when he befriends two attractive female hikers on a nearby trail. The trio are soon taking turns jumping into a beautiful lake with one another.

After the two girls head home, Aron falls into a nearby crevice knocking a boulder down with him. The boulder lands on one of one hands and traps him in place. Armed with a video camera, rope and a cheap knife, Aron tries to find a way to escape. He calls out for the two girls but no one can hear his pleas for help.

Stuck with a limited amount of water and barely any food, Aron has a short amount of time left to escape before he'll die.

Most of the movie consists of Aron trying to free his hand. He’s a smart adventurer and he has several ideas about how he can make it out of his difficult predicament. He tries chipping away at the boulder and he tries moving it with his rope but nothing works as the hours quickly pass. The film is based on a true story from 2003 and so many viewers will likely know how Ralston survives before entering the theater. Even if you know how it ends, however, "127 Hours" is still worth watching.

The production is absolutely masterful and director Danny Boyle does an amazing job. Boyle knows when to raise the volume of the soundtrack to show the enthusiasm of an explorer and he knows when to allow the visuals to speak for themselves. He also knows how to use split-screens effectively to show Aron's desperation building as time passes by. Boyle, who won an Oscar for "Slumdog Millionaire", does an incredible job complementing this story with his artistic choices.

However, "127 Hours" relies on one man and one performance. James Franco, who is well-known for his role in the recent “Spider-man” trilogy, does a suberb job in the lead. The character goes from being distraught and lonely to self-deprecating and apologetic, and Franco is able to show Ralston’s emotional fragility throughout the entire ordeal. With his choices of roles and his thoughtful approach to his work, Franco is one of the interesting and fascinating actors working today. If he isn't recognized for his work in this role come Oscar time (and from the performances I’ve seen so far this year, he should be), he will surely earn recognition in the years to come.

While watching the story unfold, my greatest criticism was of its purpose. I wondered why this true story needed to be depicted on the big screen. Considering the graphic elements and the pain audiences would have to watch the main character endure, one wonders why a film needed to be made about this.

My mind completely changed by the end of the story. This isn’t a story about a boulder or being trapped. It's a story about a man whose determination gave him a renewed chance at life. He found the will to make a difficult choice in order to survive. Watching his determination in the face of death is inspiring and a wonder to behold.

Absolutely masterful in both its production and its performances, "127 Hours" is easily one of the best movies of the year.


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