Film review: '127 Hours' is a triumph of spirit

Published: Thursday, Nov. 18 2010 5:18 p.m. MST

James Franco stars as hiker Aron Ralston in "127 Hours," which was filmed in Utah.

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"127 HOURS" — ★★★1/2 — James Franco, Kate Mara, Amber Tamblyn, Treat Williams, Clemence Poesy; R (profanity, violent content, bloody images); Broadway

It's a little bit unsettling watching actor James Franco run his hands over the smooth red rocks of Moab, Utah, in "127 Hours," a movie inspired by the real-life saga of Aron Ralston.

Ralston's story hit close to home for Utahns, since it happened in our own backyard.

In 2003, Ralston was canyoneering in Blue John Canyon, near Green River. A boulder broke loose, pinning his right arm against the narrow slot canyon walls.

With limited food, a dwindling water supply and a camcorder, Ralston survived for five days, recording his final good-byes to his family, eventually drinking his own urine and ultimately, amputating his own arm.

"127 Hours" documents that lonely time in the cramped slot canyon.

For accuracy, director Danny Boyle ("Slumdog Millionaire") and actor James Franco were allowed to view Ralston's daily video diary. Since the accident, the tapes have been locked in a bank vault for safekeeping; seen only by close family and friends.

The video moments are some of the lighter scenes during the 90-minute movie which captures Ralston's day leading up to the accident, his trying to chip away at the boulder, rigging a chair for himself and the moment he decided he'd have to take drastic measures if he wanted to live.

During initial screenings of the movie, some audience members fainted at the amputation scene. Amputating one's own arm will never be a pleasant thing to watch, but the scene accurately showed what Ralston was up against, without being gratuitous or over-the-top with gore.

(Though to be fair, I may have covered my eyes once or twice.)

There is, obviously, very little dialogue in the movie, but Boyle's direction moves the story along, utilizing flashbacks and conversations with the camera to fill in the blanks.

Franco's portrayal of the extreme sport enthusiast is captivating — and Franco even conquered his own claustrophobia to film the scenes in the cramped canyon.

Shot in Utah, Boyle captures the magnificent beauty of the Canyonlands and wonderfully illustrates the supreme solitude one can still find in this crowded day and age.

"127 Hours" is rated R for profanity, violent content, bloody images; running time: 93 minutes.

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