127 Hours (2010)

Could you hack off your own arm if the situation demanded it? That’s the predicament facing climber Aron Ralston (James Franco), whose one-man hiking excursion to the wilds of Utah ends abruptly when he becomes trapped in a canyon, his arm pinned under a collapsed boulder. There he stays for five whole days, clinging to life as he brainstorms an exit strategy from the nightmarish quandary – and finally comes to that inevitable, bloody conclusion.

If the story sounds familiar, it’s because it hit the headlines in 2003, when a man by the name of Aron Ralston really did get himself stuck in the sand-blasted canyons of Utah and – yes – sliced off his own arm to escape. Interesting story. But as a movie? Odder still, as a movie directed by Danny Boyle, the man who swept the Oscars clean last year with unexpected feel-good smash Slumdog Millionaire?

Where Slumdog was a frenetically-paced globe-trotter, 127 Hours at first seems to be the opposite. A single-location, mostly one-man show, it’s an intimate journey into the mind of a man on the edge as his increasingly frazzled brain escapes into fantasy. The links between the two, though, lie in the Boyle’s ever-energetic delivery, which is charged with his characteristic batty visuals, adrenaline-pumped edits and a head-thumping soundtrack.

When those Boyle tropes join hands with an achingly charismatic James Franco, 127 Hours becomes arresting cinema. Chartering a course through byzantine emotional beats, Franco transforms before our eyes into the star we all knew he could be: funny, moving, real. His performance – and the movie – comes to an inescapable head with that horrendous hack scene, a blizzard of gore and ear-bursting sonic screams. But while the ‘arm bit’ is what 127 Hours will ultimately be remembered for, it’s Franco who makes the movie. A-

Via Out In The City