Franco is a cut above in the uplifting "127 Hours'

Just so you get a sense of how much I squirmed during " 127 Hours ," the new film from Academy Award winning director Danny Boyle ("Slumdog Millionaire"), I have to confess that in my college cell biology class, I was too squeamish to even prick my own finger for a DNA experiment. Were I to have been in hiker Aron Ralston’s situation, I’m pretty sure I would still be lodged in that Utah crevice.

Or maybe not. They say that under pressure, we are capable of remarkable acts, like squeezing water from a cactus, lifting a car off a child, or, as Ralston did, severing our own arm.

The movie is the story of extreme hiker Aron Ralston (James Franco), who survived for five days with his arm pinned by a heavy boulder after falling into a fissure. But the film is more than Ralston merely doing the unfathomable, it’s about him maintaining his composure, sanity, morale and spirituality for those days.

And it’s about the natural instinct to survive that we all possess.

Boyle calls "127 Hours" an action film with the hero immobilized. Indeed, a lot is going on, though most of it is inside Ralston’s head.


To be fair, there are plenty of establishing shots and flashbacks that contrast Ralston’s cramped predicament with the vast landscapes that he once conquered. Still, the action is within. What goes through his mind is what might go through ours — pragmatism, fantasy, reflection — the vehicle for which is his camcorder (think Tom Hanks’ volleyball in "Cast Away").

The film is based on Ralston’s autobiography "Between a Rock and a Hard Place," and it works in a way similar to "Alive," the 1993 dramatization of the Uruguayan rugby team that crashed into the Andes and resorted to cannibalism.

The characters are uncomfortably relatable. Through them, we wrestle with our "humanness," that innate repulsion that forms a barrier between us and survival.

Amazing story notwithstanding, it would not have been the same film without James Franco, who finally demonstrates a brilliant versatility unlike what we’ve seen in the "Spider-Man" trilogy, "Pineapple Express" and "Date Night." Franco capably carries the film, and his adrenalin junkie deservedly garnered the actor an Oscar nomination.

The movie is much more than Ralston’s saga. It is a tale of our indomitable will to survive. It is engaging, uplifting and masterfully told.

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