127 Hours tells the true story of Aron Ralston (played by James Franco) who courageously amputated his own arm in order to free himself from being trapped underneath a large boulder for almost 5 days. His story of courage has inspired millions around the world.
Aron Ralston shot video diaries when he was stuck in the canyon, which he only shows to family members and friends. However Danny Boyle and James Franco were allowed to see the raw videos before the shooting. James Franco stated that the videos were very powerful and that they really helped him get into the role.
Mom, Dad, I really love you guys. I wanted to take this time to say the times we've spent together have been awesome. I haven't appreciated you in my own the way I know I could. Mom, I love you. I wish I'd returned all of your calls, ever. I really have lived this last year. I wish I had learned some lessons more astutely, more rapidly, than I did. I love you. I'll always be with you.
127 Hours is a 2010 biographical adventure film based on the autobiography Between a Rock and a Hard Place which tells the story of Aron Ralston who became trapped inside a canyon by a boulder in Robbers Roost, Utah, for five days and eventually escaped by amputating his trapped arm using a pocket multi-tool. The film is produced, co-written and directed by Danny Boyle. It stars James Franco as Aron Ralston. Simon Beaufoy, who co-wrote Boyle's previous film, Slumdog Millionaire, also co-wrote 127 Hours along side Boyle. It was produced by Christian Colson and John Smithson. The music was composed by A. R. Rahman, who composed Slumdog Millionaire, Boyle's previous film. The film received critical acclaim, especially for Franco's central performance.
Biking in Canyonlands
Aron Ralston has decided to go canyoneering in Canyonlands National Park in Utah. He doesn't tell anyone where he is going. The film starts of with Ralston driving to the park at night. The next morning he starts recording his journey on a video camera. He mentions that the guide book says that it takes four hours to reach his destination, but he plans to cut 45 minutes off that, and starts biking. Later, when he is on foot, he spots two hikers, Kristi and Megan, apparently lost. Convinced that Ralston is a guide, Kristi and Megan decide to follow Ralston's directions to the dome. He shows them the "cool way", which includes a blind jump into an underground pool. After jumping into the pool again several times and shooting it with Ralston's video camera, Ralston goes his separate way from the girls.
Aron, recording his video diary
After leaving Kristi and Megan, Ralston continues into Blue John Canyon, through a narrow passage where boulders are wedged between the walls of rock. As he descends, Ralston puts his hand on one of the boulders for supports, however the boulder comes loose which results in Ralston and the boulder falling down. His right arm gets trapped between the boulder and the canyon wall. He tries to push and lift the boulder but to no avail. He calls for help, but there's no one in the area that can hear him. After the initial panic, he realizes that he can could be stuck there for a long time and so he starts rationing his water and food. He takes out his pocket multi-tool and starts chipping away at the boulder. He also begins recording a video diary on his camera.
After several failed attempts of trying to move the boulder and noticing that chipping at the boulder isn't helping, he attempt to cut his own arm. However, after all the chipping, his knife has become too dull for him to try to cut his arm. So he stabs his arm, but he realizes that he won't be able to cut through the bone. His bottle of water goes empty and he's forced to start drinking his own urine. His video logs become more and more desperate and it becomes apparent that he is beginning to loose his mind. He also starts having illusions and dreams about his past and his relationship with the people that were closest to him and also the hikers he met on the way. After reflecting upon his life, he starts believing that it was in his destiny to be stuck in this canyon, and that it's his past and how he behaved against others thats to blame. He accepts the fact that he is going to die and even goes as far as writing Aron Ralston R.I.P 75-03 on the canyon wall.
Getting ready to amputate his arm
After five days, he finally finds enough courage and strength to apply enough force to his forearm to break his bone. He begins cutting his arm with the dull knife, while tightening his arm with a rope. After several agonizing minutes of cutting through flesh and veins he finally escapes from his trapped arm. He wraps the stump of his severed arm and takes a picture of the place he had been stuck in for five days. He walks out of the canyon, rappels down a rock face and walks several miles before he spots a family who are out hiking. After he shouts for help, they come running towards him and give him their water bottle. The family calls for help and a helicopter arrives and evacuates Ralston from the park. At the end of the film there's a montage showing Ralston's life after the incident. We see several of his adventures in climbing and mountaineering. We also see the real Aron Ralston, together with his wife whom he met a three years later, and their child. The film ends with the message "He always leaves a note to say where he has gone".
Boyle had wanted to make a film about Ralston's story for four years. He said that he wanted to make a much more intimate film as opposed to his previous film (Slumdog Millionaire), a film where he follows one actor like Darren Aronofsky did with The Wrestler. Originally, Boyle didn't want the first half of the film to have any dialogue, however this was later changed during writing.
Cast and crew of 127 Hours
Originally, Cillian Murphy was Boyle's top choice to play Ralston. But in Januray 2010, Franco was cast as Ralston. Aron Ralston lost 40 pounds over the course of five days in which he was trapped in the canyon. So therefore Franco had to go on a diet before the shooting began. The makeup crew used a device which they called plumpers, which would go on Franco's cheeks and make them look bulkier. And they would eventually take away parts of the device as the character deteriorated. Special effects expert, Tony Gardner made the prosthetic arm that was used during the amputation scene. The prosthetic arm was based on Franco's arm and the inside of it was made by the help of medical professionals. The whole scene was shot in one take using different cameras. During the shooting of that scene, Gardner came up to Boyle and said that Franco won't be able to cut through the whole arm with his dull knife because there is a thin steel rod and goes right through the whole arm. But Franco somehow managed to cut through the arm despite of the steel rod.
Amputation scene reactions
Aron Ralston, Danny Boyle and James Franco at BFI London Film Festival
The amputation scene caused several people to faint during screenings which sparked more hype for the film. On September 12, 2010 during a screening at the Toronto Film Festival, it was reported that three people fainted and one person suffered a seizure. Despite this, Boyle, Franco and Ralston still received a standing ovation at the end of the screening. During the Telluride Film Festival, two people required medical attention. On the first screening, one person had to be taken out on a gurney due to light-headedness. During the second screening, a woman suffered from a panic attack. There have been similar reactions since then, both at screenings and after the film had gotten wide-release. Several people have claimed that they haven't seen this kind of reaction to a film since the 1973 horror movie, The Exorcist.
The soundtrack for 127 Hours was composed by A. R. Rahman, who also scored Danny Boyle's previous film, Slumdog Millionaire for which Rahman won two Academy Awards. It was released digitally on November 2, 2010 and physically November 22. Never Hear Surf Music Again by the band Free Blood, was featured in the trailer and also in the film, and it also appears on the soundtrack. Phish, which is Aron Ralston's favorite band, is mentioned in the film. Ralston also sings lines from the Phish song "Sleeping Monkey" in the film, but the song does not make an appearance in the soundtrack. Rahman said that 127 Hours is the first film where he read the whole script before starting work on the score. During an interview, this is what Rahman had to say about the soundtrack:
The idea behind the music is, as usual, it shouldn't be predictable in a way. And it should drive the movie, at the same time not being bombastic on the sound. It all fell into place really, it had more guitars in it and at the same time having a kind of futuristic underlay and textures.
Danny Gradon of Empire gave the soundtrack five stars and wrote: "Rahman’s nine cues are anchored on acoustic guitar and generate a suitably meditative tone, augmented by ethnic pipes (Acid Darbari) and ethereal vocals (R. I. P.). Rahman’s collaboration with singer Dido, If I Rise, closes proceedings with a cathartic and quietly optimistic tone which almost prompts a tear."
On January 26, 2011 it was announced that 127 Hours will be released on DVD and Blu-ray on March 1. The disc includes a commentary by director Danny Boyle, producer Christian Colson and co-screenwriter Simon Beaufoy. There is also 20 minutes of deleted scenes and two making of featurettes, one that focuses on the real story and one highlighting the production itself. The Academy Award winning short-film, God of Love is also included in the disc.
127 Hours was released at just 4 locations and grossed $264,851 in it's opening weekend, averaging $66,213 per site. That was the second-biggest average of 2010, behind The Kids Are Alright, which opened to $491,971 at seven locations in July. In it's second week it added 18 locations, for a total of 22 and earned $478,767. As of March 7, 2011, the film has grossed $18,136,899 in the United States and $31,394,145 elsewhere, for a worldwide total of $49,531,044.
127 Hours was met with extremely positive reviews. Critics especially praised Franco's performance as Aron Ralston. It currently holds a score of 93% on Rotten Tomatoes, an average calculated out of 198 reviews. It holds a score of 91% among the Top Critics of Rotten Tomatoes. Peter Travers of Rolling Stone wrote: " Danny Boyle pumps every frame of 127 Hours with cinematic adrenaline that declares war on the dull gravity of docudrama. And James Franco does the best, most natural and nuanced acting of his career to date, lacing terror with bracing humor." Roger Ebert of Chicago Sun-Times wrote: " From such harrowing beginnings, it's rather awesome what an entertaining film Danny Boyle has made with 127 Hours." On Metacritic 127 Hours holds a score of 82 based on 38 reviews, which indicates "universal acclaim".
The film was nominated in three categories at the 2011 Golden Globes. These include Best Screenplay, Best Actor and Best Original Score, but it failed to win any of these categories. 127 Hours was also nominated in six categories at the 83rd Academy Awards. These include Best Motion Picture, Best Actor, Best Editing, Best Screenplay Based on Previously Produced Material, Best Original Score and Best Original Song for "If I Rise", but just like at the Golden Globes, it failed to win any awards.