127 Hours in the life of Aron Ralston

127 Hours opened on Friday in Santa Barbara and can be found at the Paseo Nuevo Theatres.

127 Hours is the captivating true story of the five days hiker Aron Ralston spent trapped beneath a boulder alone in Blue John Canyon, Utah. Aron must fight not only the elements, but his own burgeoning dehydration and panic. His story is a deeply moving one from start to finish.

The film stars James Franco as Aron and aside from a couple very short cameos by Amber Tamblyn and Kate Mara as a pair of hikers Aron encounters in the canyons, that’s about it. But between Franco’s emotional performance and Danny Boyle’s thoughtful and stylistic directing, not much else is needed to make this film one to remember.

The film starts on a high note, throwing all of Aron’s charismatic personality right onto the screen as he sets out for his latest adventure. His smile and enthusiasm are contagious. “I don’t think we figured into his day at all,” Kate Mara’s character muses as Aron bounds off into the distance at the start of the film, and the audience gets the feeling that they really didn’t, that Aron lives in the moment, whatever that moment may be.


But as the film progresses, Aron begins to hold his own pride and confidence in question. Trapped beneath the boulder, Aron remembers with horror that he never bothered to tell anyone where he was going—virtually writing his own death sentence. It’s this emotional inner struggle, told through artful flashbacks into Aron’s life—that makes his physical struggle so much richer.

Danny Boyle could not have picked a better actor to portray Ralston. James Franco fills each and every glance or grimace with an entire gamut of emotions. From the moment the boulder comes crashing down onto his arm and Franco fixes the camera with a look of sheer terror and disbelief, the audience is unable to feel anything other than what Ralston is feeling. I don’t believe I’ve ever heard a movie theater so quiet in my life as it was for the duration of this film.

James Franco will be awarded the Outstanding Performance of the Year Award at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, which kicks off January 27th though February 6th, for his role in 127 Hours. Franco will be at the Arlington Theatre Saturday January 29th to accept his award.

Of course all anyone can seem to talk about when it comes to 127 Hours is the gruesome amputation scene. Forced to drink his own urine to hydrate and on the verge of death, Ralston is left no other option but to amputate his trapped arm, so he fashions a tourniquet out of climbing gear and sets forth with nothing to aid his operation but a cheap Swiss Army knife knock-off.

Be warned: there is blood, lots of blood. If you are squeamish, then perhaps this movie is not for you. That said, the scene is nothing gorier than any other scene from any other Saw movie. However, in the case of 127 Hours, it is not just gore for the sake of gore, but a realistic telling of a man’s final, futile attempt to live. Perhaps it’s the realism of the whole film that makes this scene seem so much worse than it actual is.

Danny Boyle keeps the film interesting in a number of other, subtler ways. The cinematography is a combination of standard camera techniques coupled with the personal videotapes Franco-as-Ralston makes while trapped, plus still photographs. The soundtrack, composed largely by A. R. Rahman, who worked with Boyle on the award-winning film Slumdog Millionaire, provides a solid grounding for the emotions displayed in both the acting and the cinematography.

At first this may sounds like the sort of film that might scare people away from the sports of mountaineering and climbing, but that’s not at all the case. Instead it seeks to inspire people to live their lives to the fullest. The closing few scenes of the film give the audience a brief picture into the life of the real Aron Ralston. Ralston continues to climb today, and since he lost his arm back in 2003, Ralston became the first person to climb all 58 of Colorado’s “fourteeners”, peaks over 14,000 feet, by himself in the winter. He intends to scale Mt. Everest one day.

I really have nothing bad to say about this film. I was riveted the entire way through, breathless at some parts, near tears at others. For a movie that centers around one man trapped alone, I never felt that the film lagged, or that I was seeing too much of Franco. Yes, there’s gore, but please do not let that be the deciding factor as to whether or not you will see this film. You’d be missing out on the most poignant acting of James Franco’s career, one of the finest directed films of this year directed by one of the finest directors this decade, and a story that is truly once in a lifetime.



  1. Nice review! Looking forward to seeing this–looks really good.

  2. Thanks for the great review. Glad to see someone finally acknowledge this movie for more than its amputation scene.