I was a little worried about this movie. The trailer is pretty bad. I have some confidence in Danny Boyle. Shallow Grave, Trainspotting and 28 Days Later are all really strong movies. Sunshine was almost brilliant but suffered from a horrid third act and the rest of his other movies are throwaways. I'm also up in the air about James Franco. He was amazing on Freaks and Geeks and great in Milk. And he has a cameo in Wicker Man?!? But a lot of his work is garbage. Also, why was he on General Hospital? And why did he write a book of short stories? More accurately why did he think we would want to read a book of his short stories? He seems kind of interesting in real life but I've yet to see him be really riveting.
While I'm not sure I'd call his performance in 127 Hours riveting, he was quite good. He really captured the goofy and annoying spirit I've seen Aron Ralston depart in interviews. The movie is basically James Franco in one place for the entire movie but Boyle breaks up the monotony with images of what's going on in the character's head. Franco handles it well, I bought him entirely. Some of the action before Ralston gets stuck in the canyon was a little corny, meeting a couple of hikers and showing them a good natured good time, but once he slips and the rock falls on his arm the movie really picks up pace.
The whole time watching the movie, I knew the scene was coming. The scene when he has to cut of his own arm with a cheap version of a Leatherman tool. Boyle builds it well and by the time the scene arrives I was seriously squirming in my seat. When he has to break the bones in his arm I felt a little sick. When he gets to the nerve I dry heaved a little. That scene is the real climax of the movie. Afterward though, he has to repel down a sheer cliff with one arm and almost dead. That's almost as amazing. Obviously there is a live life to the fullest vibe in this movie, a lot of seize the day undertones but it isn't overpowering and it's tempered with Ralston's own acknowledgement of his stupidity in not letting anyone know where he was going. Later I think Aron Ralston climbed a bunch of mountains and shit with some kind of ice axe instead of an arm which is bad ass in some ways and totally dorky in others.