Watching “127 Hours,” I was reminded of what Viktor Frankl found in his concentration camp. When he was deported to Theresienstadt, he noted that some prisoners endured while others caved in to the camp’s horror. Those that survived did so because they found meaning there, and their love for each other combined to save them.
Aron Ralston (James Franco) is a man trapped in a prison. It doesn’t have barbed wire and guard towers; his prison is a boulder that lands on his right arm while exploring a Utah canyon. With no way to move the rock, he must find the strength to survive.
Aron is young and the kind of person that loves living on the edge. The two young women he meets on the trail (Amber Tamblyn and Kate Mara) discover that Aron is a bit of a live wire. As he helps them get where they want to be, he leads them into a crevice.
Making their way through the narrow opening, Aron just drops into the hole below. This frightens the girls, but Aron knows there is a large water hole below, and he calls on the girls to let go and fall.
The scene encapsulates “127 Hours” (based on a real story), for it takes faith to let go, faith to be sustained, faith to survive.
When Aron finds himself under the boulder, he takes stock of what he has: some water, a little food and memories. When the water runs out and the food is gone, Aron must summon up something greater than himself to live.
For five days he is stuck under that rock. During those days, he thinks about his family and those he loves and has loved. He imagines what is missing and what could be. This, too, gives him strength while trapped.
But after five days, he faces a terrible decision: Does he stay trapped and die or do something desperate to try to live? It’s no surprise by now to say that Aron cuts off his arm below the elbow.
Watching this on screen, I was reminded of Jesus’ words: “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell” (Matthew 5:29-30).
Of course, Aron is not losing his arm because it caused him to sin, but trying to keep it will lead to death. He must cut it off to live.
A word of warning: The scene is gruesome. Director Danny Boyle doesn’t spare us the horror of what it takes to separate an appendage. It’s bloody, and you feel Aron’s pain.
In this case, survival is horrible, and Aron knows full well what he must leave behind in order to live. But in the midst of a grim reality of loss comes the salvation of a life.
Franco is nominated for best actor for his work in this movie. “127 Hours” is also nominated for best picture. Both nominations are well deserved. Franco is on screen most of the movie and must project the pain of being trapped for five days. Boyle didn’t receive a nod for best director, but his superior work is seen in every frame.
What “127 Hours” does well is tell us that we are more than the sum of our parts. Aron Ralston isn’t a comic book hero like Peter Parker or Clark Kent. He’s an Everyman facing a challenge – and one that he lives up to.
Mike Parnell is pastor of Beth Car Baptist Church in Halifax, Va.
MPAA Rating: R for language and some disturbing violent content/bloody images.
Director: Danny Boyle
Writers: Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy
Cast: James Franco: Aron Ralston; Amber Tamblyn: Megan; Kate Mara: Kristi; Treat Williams: Aron’s Father; Kate Burton: Aron’s Mother; Rebecca Olson: Monique Meijer.
The movie’s website is here.
Michael Parnell is pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. He is married and has two boys. His love is for movies, and he can be found in a theater most Fridays.