James Franco only has a few scenes to set up who Aron is. On Saturday he happily goes out to the canyons, meets a few girls, and continues hiking before he falls and traps his arm. For the next several days he is stuck as his food and water depletes.
Boyle plays with how to creatively express Aron’s emotions he experiments with a split-split-split screen and a surreal mixture of reality. It’s such an exciting take on the material that still feels completely organic. It also provides and excellent balance to Franco’s naturalistic performance which serves as the very best in his underappreciated career.
The movie moves at a surprisingly smooth pace. I wish there were more moments of unnerving stillness in order to comprehend the hours where nothing is going on. AS he crafts a pulley system or waits for a raven to return, it’s fascinating but it doesn’t really make the audience feel the total duration of 127 hours.
Aron’s regrets play a powerful portion of the film as it humanizes him but also hurts him more than the rock. Minor things like wishing for his Swiss army knife fall to the wayside as he looks to the people in his life that he loves deeply. In order to pull off the inevitable ending, Boyle and Franco really had to get the character to the right spot. They pulled that off admirably, but still, more time could have been devoted towards it. With such a difficult premise, I feel they didn’t want to stretch this out too long but I would love a director’s cut if one exists.
Still, this is a very emotionally resonant film that shows the triumph of the human will and the innovation of filmmaking. It’s a challenging film that will reward audiences as long as they can stomach some of the more intense sequences.