While out climbing in the wilds of Utah, Aron (Franco) slips into a narrow canyon where his arm is pinned, trapping him. As he struggles to escape, he thinks back on his life and his mistakes. A harrowing, claustrophobic tale of survival.
This movie belongs to James Franco. With a single actor occupying a single location, there’s little room for error, and Franco delivers the performance of a lifetime. Far from his roles in Spiderman and Pineapple Express, Franco runs the range, displaying the highs of a gifted athlete in his prime, to the lows of a man seemingly condemned to die, and even delivers some dark humor along the way. Resourceful, logical but proud, Franco’s Aron is a realisticly human character, which makes what he does to survive that much harder to watch. Director Boyle’s unflinching depiction is sure to turn a few stomachs, but it implicitly asks if we could do the same in that situation (a question no one wants to answer). Joined by much of the same crew from his Oscar-winning film Slumdog Millionaire (writer Simon Beaufoy, composer A.R. Rahman, cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle), Boyle constructs a beautiful stage, contrasting the sheer largeness of the Utah wilderness with Aron’s tiny sliver of it. As a thriller, it’s diminished slightly by the fact that most already know the ending (it is based on a true event, after all), but as a study of a man forced to do the unthinkable to save his own life, it’s completely riveting. I can’t recommend it enough.