Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Danny Boyle|
|Produced by||Danny Boyle
|Screenplay by||Danny Boyle
|Based on||Between a Rock and a Hard Place
by Aron Ralston
|Music by||A. R. Rahman|
|Cinematography||Anthony Dod Mantle
|Editing by||Jon Harris|
|Studio||Cloud Eight Films
Darlow Smithson Productions
|Distributed by||Fox Searchlight Pictures (US)
|Running time||93 minutes|
127 Hours is a 2010 British-American biographical survival drama film directed, co-written and produced by Danny Boyle. The film stars James Franco as real-life canyoneer Aron Ralston, who became trapped by a boulder in an isolated slot canyon in Blue John Canyon, southeastern Utah, in April 2003.
The film, based on Ralston's memoir Between a Rock and a Hard Place, was written by Boyle and Simon Beaufoy, produced by Christian Colson and John Smithson and the music was scored by A. R. Rahman. Beaufoy, Colson and Rahman had all previously worked with Boyle on Slumdog Millionaire. The film was received well by critics and audiences and it was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actor for Franco.
On Friday, 25 April 2003, Aron Ralston (James Franco) prepares for a day of canyoneering in Utah's Canyonlands National Park as he drives to the trailhead at night. The next morning he rides through the park on his mountain bike, aiming to cut 45 minutes off the guide book's estimate for the time needed to reach his destination. He is on foot, running along a bare rock formation when he sees two hikers, Kristi (Kate Mara) and Megan (Amber Tamblyn), apparently lost. Ralston convinces the pair that he is a trail guide and offers to show them a much more interesting route than the one they had been trying to find. He leads them through Robbers Roost area narrow canyons, including a blind jump into an underground pool, where the three film themselves repeating the plunge using Ralston's video camera. As they part company, Kristi and Megan invite Ralston to a party they're holding the next night, and he promises to attend. However, they doubt he will show up.
Ralston continues into Blue John Canyon, through a narrow passage where boulders are suspended, wedged between the walls of rock. Ralston slips and falls into the canyon. One boulder is jarred loose, falling after Ralston to the bottom of the canyon and smashing his right arm against the canyon wall, trapping him. He initially yells for help, but the extreme isolation of his location means that nobody is within earshot. As he resigns himself to the fact that he is on his own, he begins recording a video diary on his camera and using the larger blade on his pocket multi-tool to attempt to chip away at the boulder. He also begins rationing his water and food.
As he realizes his efforts to chip away at the boulder are futile, he begins to attempt to cut into his arm, but finds his knife too blunt to break his skin. He then stabs his arm, but realizes he will not be able to cut through the bone. He finds himself out of water and is forced to drink his own urine. His video logs become more and more desperate as he feels himself dying. He begins dreaming about relationships and past experiences, including a former lover (Clémence Poésy), family (Lizzy Caplan, Treat Williams, Kate Burton), and the two hikers he met before his accident. After reflecting upon his life, he comes to the realization that everything he has done has led him to this ordeal, and that he was destined to die alone in the canyon.
After five days, Ralston sees a vision of a little boy, which he assumes is his unborn son, a blonde boy of about three years (Peter Joshua Hull), through a premonition. He discovers that by using his knowledge of torque and applying enough force to his forearm, he can break the radius and then the ulna bones. He gathers the will to do so and eventually severs his arm with the smaller, less dull knife on the multi-tool. He fashions a crude tourniquet out of the insulation for his CamelBak tube and uses a carabiner to tighten it. Ralston frees himself on Thursday, 1 May 2003, at 11:34 A.M. Mountain Standard Time. He wraps the stump of his arm and takes a picture of the boulder that trapped him as he leaves it behind. He then makes his way out of the canyon, where he is forced to rappel down a 65-foot rockface and hike several miles before, exhausted and covered in blood, he finally runs into a family on a day hike. The family sends for help and Ralston is picked up by a Utah Highway Patrol helicopter, leaving his cap and one of his shoes behind.
The film ends with shots of Ralston from his life after his ordeal — including several of Ralston's further adventures in climbing and mountaineering, which he continued following the accident — and of the real Aron Ralston with his wife, Jessica, whom he met three years later, and their son, Leo, born in 2010. A title card that appears before the closing credits says that Ralston now always leaves a note whenever he goes anywhere alone.
In an alternate ending, Ralston travels via helicopter to a small hospital where he is treated for his injuries, and speaks with his mother for the first time since leaving to Utah. After leaving, he visits his ex-girlfriend Rana, and they talk about the state of their relationship, and he realizes that his son he saw in the canyon will not be hers. The film ends with the same title cards as the original ending.
- James Franco as Aron Ralston
- Kate Mara as Kristi Moore
- Amber Tamblyn as Megan McBride
- Clémence Poésy as Rana, Aron Ralston's lover
- Lizzy Caplan as Sonja Ralston, Aron's sister
- Kate Burton as Donna Ralston, Aron's mother
- Treat Williams as Larry Ralston, Aron's father
Aron Ralston himself and his wife and son make a cameo appearance at the end of the film.
The scenes early in the film of Ralston's encounter with the two hikers were altered to portray Ralston showing them a hidden pool, when in reality he just showed them some basic climbing moves. Despite these changes, with which he was initially uncomfortable, Ralston says the rest of the film is "so factually accurate it is as close to a documentary as you can get and still be a drama".
Franco is never shown uttering even an "Ow"; Ralston wrote that this is accurate. Other changes from the book include omissions of descriptions of Ralston's efforts after freeing himself: he had to decide where to seek the fastest medical attention; he took a photo of himself at the small brown pool from which he really did drink; had his first bowel movement of the week; abandoned a lot of the items which he had kept throughout his confinement; got lost in a side canyon; and met a family from The Netherlands (not an American family), Eric, Monique, and Andy Meijer, who already knew that he was probably lost in the area, thanks to the searches of his parents and the authorities. Ralston did send Monique and Andy to run ahead to get help. Ralston walked seven miles before the helicopter came. This trek was indeed shown, however, in the alternate ending.
Danny Boyle had been wanting to make a film about Ralston's ordeal for four years. Boyle wrote a treatment for the film and Simon Beaufoy wrote the screenplay. Boyle describes 127 Hours as "an action movie with a guy who can't move". He also expressed an interest for a more intimate film than his previous film, Slumdog Millionaire (2008): "I remember thinking, I must do a film where I follow an actor the way Darren Aronofsky did with The Wrestler. So 127 Hours is my version of that."
Boyle and Fox Searchlight announced plans to create 127 Hours in November 2009. News of the World reported in November that Cillian Murphy was Boyle's top choice to play Ralston. In January 2010, James Franco was cast as Ralston. Filming began in March 2010 in Utah.  Boyle intended to shoot the first part of the film with no dialogue. By 17 June 2010, the film was in post-production.
Boyle made the very unusual move of hiring two cinematographers to work first unit, Anthony Dod Mantle and Enrique Chediak, each shooting 50 percent of the film by trading off with each other. This allowed Boyle and Franco to work long days without wearing out the crew.
Boyle enlisted Tony Gardner and his effects company Alterian, Inc. to re-create the character's self-amputation of his own arm. Boyle stressed that the realism of the arm as well as the process itself were key to the audience investing in the character's experience, and that the makeup effects' success would impact the film's success. The false arm rigs were created in layers, from fiberglass and steel bone, through silicone and fiberous muscle and tendon, to functional veins and arteries, and finally skinned with a translucent silicone layer of skin with a thin layer of subcutaneous silicone fat. Gardner states that the effects work was extremely stressful, as he wanted to do justice to the story, and he credits James Franco equally with the success of the effects work.
Franco admitted that shooting the film was physically hard on him: "There was a lot of physical pain, and Danny knew that it was going to cause a lot of pain. And I asked him after we did the movie, 'How did you know how far you could push it?' ... I had plenty of scars... Not only am I feeling physical pain, but I'm getting exhausted. It became less of a façade I put on and more of an experience that I went through."
The film had two official taglines: "There is no force more powerful than the will to live" and "Every Second Counts." The latter appears on the film poster, which is designed to resemble the vase-versus-faces optical illusion. On the poster, the viewer sees two inward-thrusting rocks or, more subtly, an hourglass.
127 Hours was screened at the Toronto International Film Festival on 12 September 2010, following its premiere at the 2010 Telluride Film Festival. The film was selected to close the 2010 London Film Festival on 28 October 2010. It was given a limited release in the United States on 5 November 2010. It was released in the United Kingdom on 7 January 2011, and in India on 26 January 2011.
There were many published reports (not all confirmed) that the trailer and film made audience members ill. The Huffington Post, in November 2010, wrote that it "has gotten audiences fainting, vomiting and worse in numbers unseen since The Exorcist – and the movie has not even hit theaters yet." During the screenings at Telluride Film Festival, two people required medical attention. At the first screening, an audience member suffered from light-headedness and was taken out of the screening on a gurney. During a subsequent screening, another viewer suffered a panic attack. Similar reactions were reported at the Toronto International Film Festival and a special screening hosted by Pixar and Lee Unkrich, director of Toy Story 3 (2010). The website Movieline published "Armed and Dangerous: A Comprehensive Timeline of Everyone Who's Fainted (Or Worse) at 127 Hours."
Reviews of 127 Hours indicate nearly universal critical acclaim, with Franco's performance garnering high praise. Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes reports that 93% of 215 professional critics have given the film a positive review, with a rating average of 8.3 out of 10. The site's consensus is that "As gut-wrenching as it is inspirational, 127 Hours unites one of Danny Boyle's most beautifully exuberant directorial efforts with a terrific performance from James Franco."
On Metacritic, which assigns a weighted mean rating out of 100 reviews from film critics, the film has a rating score of 82% based on 38 reviews. Writing for DVD Talk, Casey Burchby concluded that "127 Hours will stay with you not necessarily as a story of survival, but as a story of a harrowing interior experience". Richard Roeper of The Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 'Four Stars' and said he believed Franco deserved an Oscar nomination for his performance, as well as calling the film "one of the best of the decade". Roger Ebert awarded the film four stars and said, "127 Hours is like an exercise in conquering the unfilmable". Gazelle Emami wrote for The Huffington Post, "Franco is mesmerizing as he steers his character from one who acts with reckless disregard to an introspective, remorseful soul, all the while maintaining his playful spark. To accomplish this range in a role that mostly consists of him speaking aloud to himself is incredible." James Franco was awarded Best Actor by New York Film Critics Online.
The film was nominated for nine British Academy Film Awards, including Outstanding British Film, Best Direction, Best Actor in a Leading Role, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Editing, and Best Film Music.
It was also nominated for eight Broadcast Film Critics Association, including Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Song, and Best Sound. Its main theme song "If I Rise" won the Critics Choice award for Best Song.
- Survival film, about the film genre, with a list of related films
- Gerry, a 2002 film directed by Gus Van Sant, inspired by the death of David Coughlin
- Survival skills
- "127 Hours (2010)". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 31 January 2011.
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- Ralston, Aron (2004). Between a Rock and a Hard Place. New York: Atria Books. p. 283. ISBN 978-0-7434-9282-9. "I still haven't uttered even an "Ow!" I don't think to verbalize the pain; it's a part of the experience, no more important to the procedure than the color of my tourniquet."
- Ralston, Between a Rock and a Hard Place, p. 317. "It is mile seven, and a few minutes after three P.M. ... It will kill me if I try to hike out of this canyon. I've lost too much blood; I'm on the verge of deadly shock. I contemplate sending Eric up to get help as well, but before I can spit out the idea, the rapid stutter of a booming echo interrupts my thoughts... Two hundred yards in front of us, the metallic body of a wingless black bird rises over the canyon wall."
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- Official website
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- 127 Hours at Box Office Mojo