Skip coffee, cola or any kind of stimulant before submitting to this pounding rush of a survival movie; the overload would be disastrous. But do see it, and squirm through the year's most profoundly agonizing entertainment---or is it agonizingly profound? Danny Boyle, recently coronated for the feel-good Slumdog Millionaire, is back to the adrenalizing craft of Trainspotting with this true-life, near-Herzogian tale of impassive nature and hiker Aron Ralston's confrontation with it. In 2003, cocky outdoorsman Ralston (Franco, displaying massive range) took off on a mountain bike through Utah's Canyonlands. Boyle dices the frame into triple split-screen as Ralston launches over crags and dunes, his iPod soundtrack booming in our ears. But the exhilaration comes to a quick halt---and a completely different kind of film---when he tumbles into a narrow ravine, his right hand pinned under a small boulder. He is alone.
To Boyle, who's built a career out of euphoric motion, this is a fate worse than death. The anxious situation spurs his camera and imagination to unexplored heights; 127 Hours races feverishly over the windy plain, empty of other hikers, and even cuts into Ralston's video-captured psyche (the trapped man, not short on humor, tapes messages on his digicam). It's a crazy stunt of a movie, the kind of dare that only Oscar-winners get to blow their goodwill on. And still, Boyle might have bested himself again.
You know where this is going (gorily), and to arrive at that moment of sacrifice will take Aron through the heart of his own selfishness, his broken relationships and his aloofness. Paradoxically, this is not a tale about summoning inner strength, but about shedding pride. Sometimes, there's no choice.
Watch the trailer