127 Hours

500 Days Of Film Reviews True Life Drama, 127 Hours, Starring James Franco

Based on a remarkable true event, 127 Hours tells the story of mountain climber Aron Ralston (James Franco)’s desperate bid for survival.


On 26 April, 2003, Ralston was hiking alone through Blue Canyon, Utah. While descending a slot canyon (see Random Observations below), a boulder fell onto his arm, trapping him. Over the next five days, Ralston had to figure out how to survive and escape - by any means necessary. 

Is It Any Good?

I didn’t want to watch 127 Hours.


I am ashamed to tell you that I avoided watching Danny Boyle’s film. I just felt so squeamish about it. I knew (as I expect you do) how Ralston escaped the canyon. I just wasn’t sure if I wanted to watch it happen.


I also kept wondering if this story would have been better told as a documentary. Why did I need to see James Franco pretend to be Aron Ralston? Surely Ralston himself should tell his own story.


In addition, there is real video footage of Ralston’s time trapped in the canyon. Surely a documentary format is the way to go?


However, as remarkable as Ralston’s story undeniably is, it is also one man’s most harrowing experience. I can’t imagine how he must have suffered and how hard it must have been for his family.


Ralston has said that he does not intend to release the videos that he made during his time trapped in the canyon. He made them for his loved ones and he does not wish to share them publicly. I think we can all respect that.


Instead, Ralston allowed Boyle to watch his footage so that the director could recreate the messages that he recorded. 



127 Hours is a thrilling film to watch. James Franco is truly superb. I was just so impressed by his performance. He conveys the thrill of canyoning and Ralston’s own experience and arrogance in this terrain.


Meanwhile, Boyle builds the tension slowly and steadily. He understands that we know what is to come and he plays on our anxiety. Therefore, we see many shots of Ralston’s arm on rocky surfaces and scenes of foreboding canyon crevices.  


The canyon itself looks stunning. Acclaimed cinematographer Anthony Dodd Mantle (Rush) makes us feel the space and texture of the place. During an extremely tense moment when Ralston is trapped, the camera shows us just how isolated he is by soaring from deep within the canyon to high in the sky above. 


In this way we understand that, even if a search and rescue team were out looking for him they would probably never find him. It is up to him to do what is necessary to survive.


First, however, we have five days of Ralston trapped and alone. During this time, he reflects on his life and examines his own character. He does not always like what he finds.


Luckily, Ralston is experienced enough to realise exactly how much time he has to escape. He also knows many survival tips and tricks. I found this fascinating. As I watched, I became all too aware that I wouldn’t last five minutes in his place.


This is very much part of the 'enjoyment' of 127 Hours. What would you do? How far would you go? Could you do what Ralston did to survive?



When the inevitable moment arrives, it is excruciating. I was literally curled up in a ball. I didn’t want to watch and yet, strangely, also couldn’t look away. I don’t think I have experienced that level of almost unbearable discomfort and tension since watching the end of The Walk in 3D. 


It is funny… when I went back and reviewed these scenes, I realised that you don’t actually see that much. The events are implied and the horror of the situation superbly portrayed by Franco. 


127 Hours made me understand just what Ralston had to do to survive. He chose life. And, as the final credits rolled, I felt incredibly inspired.


Random Observations

I didn’t enjoy the editing at the beginning of 127 Hours. The film uses a frenetic split screen effect. I understood what the movie was trying to convey, but it all felt jarring, over stylized and rather unpleasant to watch. 


A slot canyon is a narrow canyon, formed by the wear of water rushing through rock.


Have you seen 127 Hours? If you have, what did you think of this film?


I'd love to know - leave me a comment in the box below!

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Jane Douglas-Jones
Jane Douglas-Jones

E: jane@500daysoffilm.com


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