It would require a truly visionary filmmaker to create an entertaining movie about a mountain climber who cuts off his arm in order to survive a fall. That gifted director would be Danny Boyle, who for 93 minutes manages to turn a horribly confining experience, which lasted 127 hours, into a gripping nail-biter.
In 2003, 27-year-old hiker Aron Ralston fell into a narrow slot of Utah's Bluejohn Canyon. His right arm was crushed against a tunnel wall by a large boulder. Unable to dislodge the rock, Ralston endured five days of pain, thirst, hunger, hallucinations and hopelessness. Eventually he came to the realization that severing his arm was the only way to save his life.
It was a gruesome amputation in that the sharpest object Aron had in his possession was a cheap, multi-purpose tool (stocking stuffer from mom). The self-surgery was by no means swift and leaves little to the imagination. But, hey, the alternative didn’t look too rosy.
"127 Hours" is one of those foregone conclusion films. We know what the outcome will be from the onset. But Boyle is so up to the risky cinematic challenge that he consistently has our undivided attention. We are a captive audience within Ralston's cave.
Casting James Franco as the doomed hiker was another stroke of genius on Boyle's part. Here's an actor who's making big strides in little known films (i.e. "Howl" and "William Vincent"). His intense-and-unflinching performance in "127 Hours" is certain to catapult him to Oscar level next year.
In "127 Hours,” Boyle reunites with his team (producers, writers, cameramen and crew) from his Academy Award-winning "Slumdog Millionaire.” And, although the two films are diametrically diverse in subject matter, they send a common message. The power of the human spirit reigns supreme in the scheme of things.