The only Best Picture nominee from this year’s Academy Awards that hasn’t been released on DVD yet is The King’s Speech, and it comes out like either next week or in two weeks. So, I’ve finally decided to make a special attempt to watch every film that was nominated for Best Picture at last year’s Academy Awards and put them at the tip top of my Netflix queue (well at least be interspersed with my Cowboy Bebop DVD’s that are coming in). So there will be  larger than normal number of films that came out in 2010 that will be reviewed for a short period of time on this blog. However, I’ll still be watching the stuff in order from my list as well, but this is a nice little way to make this blog a little more relevant, and so the movie to start off this year’s Academy Award series is none other than Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours.

127 Hours is based off the incredible true story of Aron Ralston (James Franco). Aron is a guy into extreme sports, particularly mountain climbing and “canyoneering” in fairly extreme areas, in this film’s case a particularly dangerous spot of land known as Blue John’s canyon in a remote desert in Utah. While out on this particular hike, Aron misjudges the stability of a rock in one of the many crevasses in the canyon. He puts too much weight on it and it falls, causing both Aron and the rock to plummet to the bottom of the canyon, where the rock becomes re-lodged between the two walls and traps Aron’s hand in the process. What follows is the story of how Aron survived the next (title drop) 127 hours and the decision he ultimately comes to, cutting his own arm off in order to escape and survive.

A film about a man being stuck between a literal rock and a hard place for over 5 days probably doesn’t sound like the most entertaining film ever made. This film is able to succeed because after a certain point, once Aron’s body has entered a state of nearly complete shock and his hold on sanity is slowly starting to go, the film becomes a sort of psychological head-trip through Aron’s emotions and general state of mind as he has to deal with a fairly unspeakable horror. One of the really cool things about director Danny Boyle is how well he’s able to make such a diverse set of films, from zombie apocalypse pictures like the 28 Days Later movies to poverty (Slumdog Millionaire) and now this harrowing tale of survival. If I were grading this film purely on its cinematography, it would get an A+. The camera work in this film was just breathtakingly beautiful and Danny Boyle did an exceptional job of using the camera as a tool to make you more emotionally in sync with the characters. Although really, just the beautiful Utah desert and canyons might have been worth the price of admission alone. It’s easy to see why, despite this terrible incident, Aron Ralston continues to canyoneer to this day.

This is basically a one-character picture (you see and hear from other individuals but at the end of the day, no one matters but Aron) and as such, this movie would have been a big old bomb if James Franco wasn’t up to the task. Thankfully, as always, he was able to deliver. Franco won the Best Actor award at the Independent Spirit Awards, and while this performance wasn’t as good for me as Jesse Eisenberg in The Social Network, this was still one hell of a power-house performance. I haven’t seen The King’s Speech yet, but I’ll tell you what, Colin Firth had some seriously stiff competition this year in the Best Actor category. Of course, I thought he should have won the 2009 awards for A Single Man, but that’s another story for another day.

The film slowed down at times, and there were points when I was wondering how accurate of a job that Danny Boyle did really showing what was going on in Aron’s head and what parts were just stuff he did to make it look cooler or more theatrical. I would actually be really interested to see more of a documentary type feature about the real true story of Aron Ralston. However, this was still a pretty fantastic picture. I’ll tell you what though, the scene where the actual dismemberment occurs was a little bit more than I could take. It was pretty damn graphic, but it was used tastefully and for dramatic purposes. I can thoroughly recommend this film to everyone as long as you have the stomach to handle the more intense scenes.

Final Score: A-