Extreme hiking goes haywire and becomes an invigorating, empowering thriller. Especially when you don't tell anyone where you're going.
127 Hours stars James Franco (Howl) as sports enthusiast and adventurer Aron Ralston (at age 26) and has a way about it that is riveting, jarring and inspiration.
Scribe Simon Beaufoy (The Full Monty) effectively adapts Ralston's own claustrophobic tome (Between A Rock and A Hard Place) which is like a bracing roller-coaster ride especially for those who don't know how it unfolds.
Aron, in April 2003, without his mobile phone or contact with family, has an unforgettable experience at Blue John Canyon in Utah.
The outdoorsman meets fellow hikers (Kate Mara and Amber Tamblyn) for a refreshing interlude at an underwater lake before continuing on his own to get hemmed in a narrow gorge. A fallen boulder has pressed Aron's right forearm up against the canyon wall immobilizing him.
For some, it may be hard to imagine a full-length feature built around what isn't your typical life-and-death struggle. A wrenching, but beyond watchable five-day period for Aron is a method acting showcase for a forceful Franco probing a psychological slit that is interesting as well as surreal.
A nerve-wracking situation has its share of terrifying and lighter instances as Aron knows he has reached more than a painful threshold. The charismatic man's zest for life is put to the test in a soulful way (involved loved ones and a girlfriend played by Clemence Poesy) that never detaches the onlooker. What really enables Franco to truly envelop Aaron is Danny Boyle's dynamic treatment of material, a haunting, humanistic account of mortality resulting in sympathy for the inconceivable or inevitable.
Again, the Oscar-winner for Slumdog Millionaire proves he can make a lot out of what may seem minute or visually limited. When experiencing terra firma with Aron, a bold surge of hues, shadows and light comes by way of lensing duo Anthony Dod Mantle and Enrique Chediak. Not only there, but in amusing fantastical sequences and personal recollection with events shuffled for such a tattered, turmoiled existence. A.R. Rahman's varied pop-synthesized soundtrack is vibrant and authentic, very attentive to an atmospheric, propulsively unified tale.
A veritable, if agonizing one-man show never traps itself in ominous, calculating corners, 127 Hours more than exceeds the sum of its disparate weave of wondrous parts, amped up on Ralston's life-affirming dance with death.