Many of us remember hearing about Aron Ralston in May 2003. He became wedged in Utah's Blue John Canyon when a boulder slipped, plunged him into a crevasse, and pinned his right arm against the rock wall. Over the next five days, Aron talked to his video camera, slipped in and out of hallucinations, and in desperation cut off his right arm above the elbow to free himself.
As Ralston, James Franco gives a nuanced and multifaceted performance that anchors this story, punctuated occasionally by some gruesome, life-saving actions. As the story begins and Aron escapes from the time-lapse shots of a crowded, claustrophobic city, flying over the terrain on his mountain bike, an agile, commanding teenager. Franco conveys Ralston's vivacious personality, his glorying in the gorgeous red-canyon country, so his entrapment later packs a gut-wrenching punch. First he helps out two young women hikers, and enjoys an exhilarating slide down canyon walls into a crystal clear pool.
Once the tragedy begins, director Boyle thrusts the viewer into Aron's mind—his memories of his family, his imagining his future son, and his feverish, real fears of never getting out. In one particularly dramatic shot, Boyle begins in a close up on Aron and pulls back farther and farther and farther into the sky, establishing what a speck of dust Aron is. Meantime, Aron gazes longingly to the jet trails across the sky. And then a ferocious storm erupts, bringing more panic and menace.
At this past year's Telluride Film Festival, Aron Ralston, James Franco and Danny Boyle talked about the chilling experience of revisiting the canyon and the horrendous accident. Aron held forth, waving his stump of a right arm around, enthusiastic as ever about the great outdoors and his marathon activities. Ralston did mention that he always tells friends and family where he's heading and how long he intends to hike. The man is an inspiration. For any mountaineers or outdoor enthusiasts, 127 Hours offers a visceral, masterful tale of caution and astonishing survival. Even knowing the outcome of the events does not diminish the impact. At a Landmark Theatre.