In 2003, American mountain climber Aaron Ralston was hiking Blue John Canyon in Utah when he fell, and a dislodged boulder pinned his right arm to a rock wall. The feat of human endurance that followed quite seriously deserved the movie treatment, if only to highlight the incredible resilience, determination and willpower that one man can possess.
Aaron Ralston spent an astonishing amount of time stuck in a standing position, unable to free himself, slowly sipping his bottle of water at around 150ml a day, and eventually choosing to consume his own urine in order to prolong his survival. The majority that have heard of the story of Aaron Ralston and 127 Hours also knew that in order to escape his seemingly inescapable situation, the adventurer fashioned a tournequet, snapped his arm and then cut it off below the elbow using a poor quality multi-tool. This may sound grisly, but the fact the he managed to survive this ordeal, and then hiked several miles afterwards, losing around a quarter of his blood, should actually serve as an inspiration to us all.
In the wrong hands, the big screen version could simply be a cack-handed build-up to the inevitable grotesque scene that everyone is waiting to see.
So it’s a good job the world has Danny Boyle.
It’s impossible to overstate this director’s abilities as a filmmaker; he is different class, and his innovative style and genius craftmanship, both as an original storyteller and a technical maestro, are rightly being held in the highest regard, and his reputation is growing exponentially with each movie he makes; his résumé which lists Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, Sunshine and Slumdog Millionaire, to name but a few, is undeniably impressive.
Enough Boyle worship, 127 Hours is quite literally a faultless film; it stays close to the truth of its immense source material, the pacing is perfect, the scope of the scenery emphasises the man’s sapping solitude and the performance of James Franco (Pineapple Express, Spiderman) as Aaron is as good a piece of acting as you will see this year.
Franco’s irrespressibly upbeat performance in the first fifteen minutes truly characterises a man focused on freedom and exploration; a real adventurer so determined to do things by himself that he doesn’t so much as leave a note to say where he is going. We don’t know Aaron, but Franco makes us believe we do, and it’s hard to think anyone could have done a better job of bringing Aaron Ralston to the screen and making us care so sincerely about his fate.