By Gary Murray

Starring James Franco, Amber Tamblyn, Kate Mara, Clemence Poesy, Kate Burton and Lizzy Caplan

Directed by Danny Boyle

Written by Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy

Running time 94 min

MPAA Rating R

Selig Film Rating Matinee

The true story of Aron Ralston was a major headline on the talk-news stations a few seasons back. The tale of a man trapped in a canyon with his arm caught between a canyon edge and a massive boulder was the driving discussion of those 'What would you do?' segments. The story is told in fictional fashion with the new Danny Boyle film 127 Hours.

When we first meet Aron (James Franco), he is a rather cocky athletic young man with a zest for adventure. He's the kind of a guy to go out in the desert and not tell his friends or family where he is traveling. As an amateur guide, the knows every crevice and curve in the Utah park he frequents. Riding his bike to a dangerous limit, the idea that he is his own man gets a solid cinematic footing.

Soon he meets a couple of hikers (Amber Tamblyn and Kate Mara) showing them an underwater swimming hole with a shear drop to splashdown. The girls confirm that Aron is the kind of guy who can attain just about any woman he wants. After the swimming jaunt, Aron takes off for more adventures but promises to meet the young ladies later in town.

Then Aron takes off for more exploring. On top of a outcropping, he loses his footing and falls down in a deep crevasse with a massive rock following him. Once the debris settles, it is obvious that Aron's hand is caught between the two solid pieces of Mother Earth. A clock appears. We know that the countdown is on.

The rest of the film is struggle and realizations, where Aron has to come to the inevitable conclusion of what he must to first to survive, then to free himself. Along the way there are all the stages of grief and flashbacks to happier days in his life. He confronts what demons led him to the path of his life.

Even though there is a big cast listed, the true star of 127 Hours is James Franco. Since most of the story takes place between a rock and a hard place, all we get is different angles of Franco struggling to free himself and work against the elements. He does a great job of keeping us interested in his plight. Anyone who watches the news knows the outcome of Aron, the journey is of self-discovery.

Danny Boyle scored the Oscar with Slumdog Millionaire but the magic didn't happen twice with 127 Hours. There is not enough story for a full-length feature. Padding the film with flashbacks just clutters the present of 127 Hours. While he does a workman job of selecting different shots to drive the piece, there are not so many ways one can frame a guy caught in a crevice. It was getting old waiting for the big ending. A more interesting story would have been with dealing with the self inflicted handicap. The story post being trapped is a compelling idea but not fulfilled here.

There are going to be many comparisons made between 127 Hours and Buried, the Ryan Reynolds film from earlier in the fall. I think that it is a bit unfair. Where both are stories of men trapped in circumstances beyond their control, the background stories are as dissimilar as two could ever be. Where Buried is a more 'man against the elements' story, 127 Hours is a 'man against himself'. It is an interesting idea but not the best story or execution.


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