"127 Hours" does something that would seem impossible in a film: hold the viewer's interest in a main character trapped in a small space for over five days. Directed by James Boyle and based on the book "Between a Rock and a Hard Place," the film recounts the 2003 ordeal of Aron Ralston, a hiker in Blue John Canyon, Utah.
Ralston, in another remarkable performance by James Franco (he also played Allen Ginsberg in "Howl," recently reviewed here) is filled with youthful hubris: he drives too fast, speed walks through the terrain and readily flirts with two young women he meets there. His plan to join them at a party the next night is ruined by a terrible mishap: after suffering a fall, Ralston discovers that his arm is caught between a boulder and rock wall. He keeps his head enough to video record his situation, hoping his testimony will be sent to his parents after his probable death. Ralston reflects upon the fact that he tried to be a hero, not even telling anyone about his solitary trek. Suffering from exhaustion and lack of nourishment, he falls into hallucinations in between trying and failing to remove the boulder.
The ultimate solution is simple and brutal: to amputate his arm between the elbow and wrist. This grisly operation is difficult to watch, but so is the claustrophobia and seeming hopelessness of Ralston's situation. In fact, his predicament is so grim that one feels a sense of liberation after he hacks through his arm. The ultimate power of "127 Hours" is in this determination to live at all costs.