Let’s face it, a film that involves one man, largely set in a single small location, with a known outcome that isn’t massively pleasant, does not make the most desirable of pitches. But golden boy Danny Boyle, glowing with over-heaped praise for Slumdog, brings the story of one man’s self discovery (hey, that’s what the inside of my arm looks like!) into must-see territory.
You know the story. Man’s arm trapped under rock. 127 long hours later man escapes. Arm does not. But Boyle plays with your expectations and tweaks the tension, creeping towards the bits you’re waiting for with nervous anticipation and throwing a few extras in to make the journey fresh. Though you’re waiting on the big separation, the rest of the 127 hours highlights the other issues poor Aron Ralston has to deal with; hunger, thirst, temperature, a loss of hope.
I say “poor Aron”, but the film doesn’t shy away from the fact that Aron is a cocky, selfish, egotistical little numbskull who thrives off ridiculous thrills and gurns for his camera at any opportunity. One of those people you went to uni with who end up going off round the world on a whim with no real life-plan, and has crazy adventures that they broadcast on a blog while you sit in a drizzly office silently hating the bastard before descending into a sea of self-pity at how uninteresting and pointless your own life is. You know – “one of those”.
Anyway, Aron himself has admitted he was a bit of a knobhead (probably) and James Franco plays it to perfection. Someone you can believably hate but at the same time, once that panic has kicked in as arm meets rock, someone you can sort of care for. There’s plenty of time to think about getting yourself into the same situation and the sheer horror of it all, and more “how far would you go?” questions than you’d probably anticipate.
At a trim 94 minutes this isn’t an epic character study, but Boyle doesn’t need to pad it out. There are some smart explorations into Aron’s psyche (a talk show being a particular highlight) and accepting your fate scenes on a par with the incinerator moment in Toy Story 3 (still haunts me). Though you’d go for the money shots – and they are brutally but stylishly handled – 127 Hours packs a strong emotional punch too. Who knew a film about a guy cutting off his arm could nearly make me cry?
The combination of a raw performance from Franco and Boyle’s typical frenetic direction with a killer soundtrack makes a bold, emotional and squirm-inducing film. Even if arm innards aren’t your cup of tea, it’s still worthy of a watch - you’ll only miss a couple of minutes if you choose to hide your eyes. 127 Hours grips and doesn’t let go, and as such pulls out a CF2.