I think the reports and those who claim to have fainted when watching this is probably highly exaggerated. Sure it's graphic, but nothing not already seen in a typical torture porn film. Danny Boyle doesn't exploit this inevitable moment through lingering shots or in your face techniques, but does enough to bring forth the sheer horror and pain of the entire 127 hours ordeal that culminates with a none too pretty or neat self amputation of a limb, taking care of addressing and cutting through skin, meat, bone and tendon.
Based on the memoirs of Aron Ralston's true life experience of literally being stuck between a rock and a hard place (which of course makes for a catchy book title), while I haven't read that book, Danny Boyle has weaved an incredibly fast paced picture from the get go, introducing us to Aron the weekend adventurer, who takes to the canyons for biking, climbing and exploration, played to pitch perfection by James Franco in the leading role. Quite the ladies man as well with his boyish charms and manly antics, if only to find himself never lingering at one spot, always on the go, not to allow anything to stand in his way of what could be the best weekend of his life. That is until disaster struck.
When we begin from Zero hour, you can't help but feel that it's probably going to be the same with another solo, constricted space situation captured on film like Buried, which had Ryan Reynolds in a one man show buried in a box underground, and fighting for his life against his terrorist captors whom you don't see. With the camera constantly pulling to the surface of the earth just to quantify the significance of being alone and the worrying point of having nobody to contact, the narrative here doesn't get all claustrophobic on us, because Boyle made it a point for the film to be a little expansive, with various reminiscence on Aron's part, and out of body fantasy and imaginary sequences of being somewhere else other than where Aron currently is.
And while that feeling of being confined is nothing new, it does make you appreciate and realize that such moments aren't far fetched, because with so many idle hours parked in between figuring out and planning how to get out, we do that idle daydream even when we're busy, so what more when we have time on our hands, with literally nowhere else to go? There's a fine balance reached where we see how Aron splits time between keeping and planning to extend his lifespan when he realizes the really deep problem he's rooted in, and that of taking time off to think about the larger picture.
Which James Franco doesn't disappoint, especially when he's chronicling what could be his final hours on earth in his camcorder. He flits from being the really energetic young adult that we get introduced to, and the growingly desperate man, before basking in exuberance at the new lease of life given to him. If anyone thinks Franco is but a pretty face without substance, perhaps 127 Hours will change your mind about the actor, probably best known in his support role in Sam Raimi's Spiderman trilogy. It's almost like a one man show for about an hour of the film, so much of the weight of the film lies on Franco being able to convince us of the mixed emotions Aron goes through in different periods of the day and those hours, which he does.
Danny Boyle continues to assert why he's one of the most versatile directors of today tackling a variety of genres, never running out of ideas to translate his vision in various films, always straddling between telling emotional stories that resonate even if the premise and set up screams commercial. A.R. Rahman, the Mozart of Madras continues in his second in as many collaboration with Boyle, providing original music that rocks from the start and defines the film, just like how his Chaiyya Chaiyya (though it was already used for Dil Se) did for Spike Lee's Inside Man.
If there are messages to gain from the film, it is to always prepare for the unexpected, pack right and gather enough resources for the what ifs in life, and not to be a bastard in relationships, keeping an arm's length away from loved ones and/or taking them for granted. There could be a time where we find ourselves regretting for not doing some things while we can, so I guess it's up to us if we want to live life a day at a time while it's the last, or to idle it all away thinking we're invincible and infallible. Highly recommended film befitting of a nomination, but whether it could win with such illustrious company this year, will be a bit of a stretch.