127 Hours (2010)

Director Danny Boyle’s dramatic thriller chronicles the hours of Aron Ralston and his battle with a lodged rock that sealed his fate and brought Aron down to Earth to come to grips with his own life and mortality. Much like “In to the Wild,” director Boyle takes what was something of an already interesting story and turns it in to much than an experience by altering it in to a surreal and somewhat spiritual look back at a young man whose life has been filled with excitement and adventure that he used as a form of coping with his inability to allow people to connect to him as he connected to nature and the wilderness. And much like Sean Penn accomplished with “In to the Wild,” he manages to take an accident and uses it as a form of expressing the ideas of fate, coincidence, and the afterlife and a person communing with and ultimately becoming one with the environment around him.

In the context of Aron Ralston, he is a man who is comfortable with the world around him and he feels very serene whenever he’s in the rocky canyons or snowy cliffs of the world where he’s allowed to roam free and do as he pleases. Boyle brings us down to Ralston’s world where he’s a man so obsessed with his own journey in to the wilderness that he completely dismisses everything around him including phones, television, and music, and instead packs up for a day riding the rocks and exploring himself, often looking for something he’s hoping to find that will completely change his life. Aron is a man who, while comfortable with the wilderness, is still very much a closed off man out of touch with society, which is indicated by his chance encounter with two beautiful travelers (Kate Mara and Amber Tamblyn), both of whom are hesitant to follow him when he offers to bring them to their destination, but grow comfortable when his enthusiasm and daring is expressed in his willingness to climb between two narrow cliffs diving in to a large body of water.

He then tries to influence the women in to doing the same, leading in to a very picturesque moment in his life that both women know will never be caught again. Even when inviting him to a party, and taking one final foreboding picture with him, they both know he’ll never make the final connection with them and become anything more than an attractive tour guide. And in a sense Aron knows that, too. A moment of hubris and arrogance however causes him to fall in to a small pit where his hand is firmly lodged under a large rock and he is stuck, left to die and running low on food and water.

While the film could have been a grueling ninety minute exercise in human torment, Boyle instead chooses to explore the more eye opening aspect of this face to face encounter with death as Aron is left on his own to deal with starvation, dehydration, isolation, claustrophobia, and sheer desperation all of which lead to a sense of enlightenment for a man so out in the open but so closed off from everything the world offers him. Boyle is never afraid to get surreal, as is the usual Boyle personal stamp, as Aron ponders on past relationships, hosts his own one man interview, and savors an imaginary trek to the party where he indulges in Mountain Dew and beer. Boyle suggests with this re-enactment that fate played a big hand in Aron’s accident, and that his loss of his own arm was an offering to nature (or God, whatever you prefer) after taking so much from the world, and as only part of a man he could live on truly whole and fulfill his inner most desires that don’t entirely involve climbing down cliffs.

“127 Hours” is an enriching and heartbreaking drama filled with self-reflection and stunning visuals, all the while James Franco gives a wonderful performance as Aron, holding the weight of the movie on his shoulders with his performance that consumes 80 percent of the film. Sometimes stories of hope can serve a purpose, and this one is definitely needed. Gruesome and disturbing but heartbreaking and uplifting, “127 Hours” is an excellent adaptation of Aron Ralston’s significant confrontation with a large rock that changed his life and caused him to appreciate and respect his world a little more. Boyle’s direction is sharp, Franco’s performance is excellent, and this is a top ten of 2010 candidate for sure.