Franco shines as a one-man show in ‘127 Hours’

December 9th, 2010

SPOILER ALERT: He cuts off his own arm.

“127 Hours” tells the extraordinary true story of Aron Ralston, the 27 year-old hiker who became trapped in a Utah canyon when his right hand was pinned under a boulder. 

After five days, he cut off his own arm with a dull knife in order to escape and survive. 

Don’t worry, I’m not spoiling anything. You’re supposed to know what’s going to happen in this movie. 

“127 Hours” is all about the anticipation rather than the actual event, and the ride there is incredible. 

The new movie directed by Danny Boyle (“Slumdog Millionaire”) stars James Franco (“Pineapple Express”) as Aron. 

Although the movie for the most part takes place in one spot, it is never dull and the viewer is never bored. 

The psychological suspense and deterioration of Aron’s physical and mental health are fascinating to watch. Boyle’s direction is a perfect fit.

Every frame bursts with energy that matches that of the main character. Boyle is able to take the camera anywhere, including the surface of a drop of water, and the inside of a straw. 

Boyle often uses split-screen imagery that shows the same event from different perspectives, or offers a glimpse into Aron’s mind while also staying in the action. 

Once Aron starts to slip away from sanity, we’re treated to some terrific trippy sequences, featuring clips from soda commercials and an inflatable Scooby Doo (It’ll make sense when you see it, trust me).

While Aron is stuck, he revisits many memories of his life. 

Boyle films these flashbacks perfectly. 

We never see a grown-up Aron in them, and most of the time they’re from his point of view. 

Boyle could’ve cheated and used the flashbacks to take us away from Aron’s predicament, but he is confident, and never allows Aron to leave the boulder. We are trapped with him.

While there is a supporting cast, “127 Hours” is basically a one-man show, and Franco is more than up for the job. His turn as Aron is by far his best performance and will be sure to land him a handful of nominations come awards season. 

His charming beach bum character is likable and interesting, but most importantly, he feels real. 

It’s rare when an actor disappears so completely into a role. 

While trapped, Aron keeps from going insane by recording a video diary with his camera. 

Franco particularly shines during these scenes, especially when Aron is interviewing himself, talking like a charismatic talk show host when asking questions.

Franco, amazingly, is able to make us laugh one second and then feel as hopeless as Aron the next.

And when the time comes for him to do what he must, we are ready with him. 

The amputation scene is intense, but those of you who are easily grossed out owe it to yourself to see Franco in this scene. He owns it.

There are good things all around to be said about this movie. 

The cinematography is gorgeous, the editing is absolutely perfect, A.R. Rahman’s score is captivating and moving. 

There’s even a perfectly placed Sigur Ros song at the end. But the real stars are Boyle and Franco, who are in top form. 

“127 Hours” is an inspirational triumph, a tribute to the strength that man is capable of when it comes to surviving.