127 Hours (Blu-ray Review)

I faced a conundrum with this film.  Yep, that’s right.  You heard me.  I wondered how the heck I was going to enjoy and be entertained by a film about a guy getting his arm stuck under a boulder and ultimately “disarmed.”   But on the other hand, I thought of Director Danny Boyle and all the joy he brought me in 2009’s Slumdog Millionaire.  Take note.  I did not say Trainspotting.  I hated that film.  And then there’s the six 2011 Academy Awards nods it received.  I seriously pondered.  Is this film really that good?  Inquiring minds…i.e. mine…just had to find out. And here’s my cautionary tale of a fear that’s near and dear to me (ever since Empire Strikes Back)…amputation.


127 Hours is a biographical film produced, co-written and directed by Danny Boyle.  The film stars James Franco who portrays mountain climber Aron Ralston.  Just in case you are unfamiliar with the tragic real life tale of Aron Ralston, I will catch you up to speed.  In a freak rock climbing accident, a boulder in Robbers Roost, Utah trapped him for more than five days in 2003 before having to amputate his own arm with a dull knife in order to escape.  I believe Casey Broadwater, over at blu-ray.com, said it best when he describes the boulder the size of a large snowman’s bottom section.  That cracked me up!  Anyway, as I was saying, the film is based upon the real events within Ralston’s autobiography Between a Rock and a Hard Place.  I remember this book back in the day.  And best of all, the feature’s music was scored by A.R. Rahman who had previously worked with Boyle on Slumdog.  In other words, it was a beautiful reunion.

Now here’s where I might lose a few readers.  Despite the film’s obvious bleak content, I laughed my a$$ off at times.  No, I did not laugh because a man had to suffer for 5+ days and amputate his own arm.  That would just be sick and inhumane.  I laughed because of the comic relief injected throughout the feature.  To be completely honest, I wasn’t expecting this reaction…not at all.  I went into this like I did my Brokeback Mountain review so many years ago.  I was really expecting to be depressed as a result of my viewing.  But you know what?  127 Hours is a tale of survival, hope and overcoming the odds.  And the fact that it overcame my negative preconceptions was even better.  This one’s a keeper!

127 Hours begins with Aron Ralston (Franco) preparing for a day of canyoneering in Canyonlands National Park in Utah.  You can tell that this guy lives for this.  I admire his passion, but I digress.  He loves the isolation his trips provide.  He also takes along the much-needed essentials like water (although not enough), flashlights and even a video camera, but he forgets the most important thing…a sharp knife!  As far as the video camera goes, I guess he either figures he is going to miss something special or the guy really enjoys watching himself.  Either way, the video camera is an essential prop within this film and Aron’s real life tale.   But sadly, all good things must come to an end as Aron continues into Blue John Canyon and ultimately gets his right arm crushed by a boulder while trying to cross and descend down a narrow passage.  Alright, remember me saying he seemingly loves the isolation?  Well, that’s a problem when you need help and there’s no one around to provide some.  One can truly say that you would literally be “between a rock and a hard place.”

Up until this tragic point, we the audience have been presented with not only an upbeat tale, but a comedic one as well.  Much like Aron’s destiny to be trapped under this rock, Franco was born to play this role.  His usual amped up comedic charm really shines here.  I know it’s hard to believe given the movie’s subject matter, but believe me, it’s ball busting at times.  But as I alluded to before, tragedy eventually strikes and I truly expected the fun ride to be over.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  Yes, there were times of extreme desperation and sorrow, but Aron truly never lost the faith.  He’s a survivor and a fighter.  That’s what separates him from the rest of us.  He not only finds himself in that canyon, but he comes full circle as he accepts his tragic fate and resolves to do the unthinkable…whatever it takes to survive.

Now I will warn you, 127 Hours is not for the faint of heart.  There are moments that will make the squeamish people want to turn it off.  Oh, you want a few examples to illustrate what I’m talking about?  Well…Aron may have been forced to drink his own urine a couple of times in order to survive and oh yeah…there is that whole arm amputation scene.  Personally, I think the worst thing for me was when he had to cut through the nerves in his arm with this very dull knife.  Ouch!  It’s like getting a deep cavity drilled without Novocain, but I’m sure it hurts a hell of a lot worse.

Alright, I probably have to explain my stance on why I laughed so much, huh?  It’s the delusions that Aron experiences that provoked the funny bone in me.  Are delusions are funny?  Of course they are not.  But as they pertain to this movie, they are executed flawlessly here to break up the monotony of the tension.  I mean remember, there’s nothing fun about being stuck under a rock, but unlike Reynold’s Buried, we get little breaks from the dead serious calm of the situation.  And it helps having an actor of Franco’s quality to warm us over.  He’s quirky and I like that!

And probably one of the biggest things for me was the film’s soundtrack/score.  If I only had to describe it with one word from my limited vocabulary, that word would simply be “AWESOME.”   Like his work in Slumdog Millionaire, A.R. Rahman once again delivers with a robust and powerful soundtrack.  I knew good things were in store for me, audibly, upon going in, but I wasn’t prepared for the sonic treasure I was about to unearth.  Oh well.  I’m sure you are all sick and tired reading about all my likes and dislikes.  So why don’t we explore what we really came here for…the Blu-ray disc vitals!  Come on!  Keep up and watch your step!  It’s a long way down.


I guess I just can’t contain my enthusiasm for this Blu-ray disc.  I was blown away by the video presentation here.  No, it’s not reference quality, but it’s damn close!  127 Hours is just one of those Blu-ray films that knocks you out of your seat with its gorgeous landscapes and breathtaking visuals.  Who needs special effects when you have nature as beautiful as this and action sets remarkably close in detail to the real thing.   The 1080p AVC MPEG-4 video codec is presented in a widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  You know what that means, don’t you?  The gorgeous mountains and treacherous caverns fill your entire HDTV set.  I love it!  No screen real estate is wasted here.  And did I hear someone talk about clarity?  Wow!  Things are crystal clear here.  From the desert mountains to this secret water hole Aron found, nature literally jumps out of your viewing screen at you.  You can almost feel the mountain rocks and individual grains of sand.  In addition to the impeccable detail, there are no problems I can see whatsoever with color, black levels or noise/artifacts in the picture.  Even the contrast seemed perfect here.  However, there are a handful of scenes where the video quality suffered a bit, hence restraining me from giving it a perfect score, but they are very far and in between.  In other words…enjoy this one!


Continuing the excellence found in the picture quality, as described above, comes a perfect score in audio department.  Things just don’t get better.  No it’s no King Kong, but for lack of a better term once again, it’s pretty damn close!  I can’t find anything to complain about here.  All I have are comments of warm praise.  You wouldn’t expect this from a motion picture like this (regarding its subject matter), but things just sound perfect here.  There’s a haunting quiet stillness in the air during key sequences, but there’s also jarring effects and brilliant moments of ambiance that roar behind you at just the right moments.  Every little nuance, from ants marching to thunder clapping, is spot on.  And remember me talking about the music of A.R. Rahman above?  Well, it’s in this department that his contributions truly shine.  Sure there are other songs contained on the film’s soundtrack, but it’s A.R. who singlehandedly breaths life into what would be a pretty dull film without.  My favorite, and I have not felt this way since The Dark Knight’s score, is this screeching feedback A.R. employed every time Aron hit a nerve while trying to amputate his arm.  I was writhing in pain while watching this scene.  And it has everything to do with A.R. Rahman.  One of the other areas I tend to care a lot about is the dialog.  I’m ecstatic to report that it’s also perfect here.  Everything is loud and intelligible.   Like I said, I cannot find anything to complain about here so I’m just going to go and award it a perfect score.  Click.  Click.  Boom!

Special Features  

You got to give and take a little when it comes to Blu-ray releases.  What do I mean?  Well, you have a stellar movie and an equally awesome A/V presentation.  You can’t always expect the Special Features department to follow suit, can you?  If you are I, then you truly don’t care.  The movie is what’s most important to me.  But I do understand that some Blu-ray enthusiasts out there tend to feel ripped off when the Special Features are not big and robust.  Again, I could care less.  What I do care about is the fact that since this a Blu-ray release, every special feature should be in HD too.  Thankfully, this is the case here.  So come on!  Let’s explore everything you will find here.

  • Feature Commentary – Watch the movie with audio commentary provided by Director/Co-Screenwriter Danny Boyle, Producer Christian Colson and Co-Screenwriter Simon Beaufoy.  This was pretty entertaining.  It wasn’t dull like most commentary tracks.
  • Deleted Scenes (HD, 34:13) – There are a total of seven deleted scenes here.  There’s also a 20-minute alternate ending.  If you are a fan of these, eat ‘em up!
  • Search & Rescue (HD, 14:51) – Family, police and the real Aron Ralston recount the actual events that took place within the film.  It was a very interesting watch and extremely cool to see just how faithful the film was to the actual events that happened.  There are even still photos Aron took of himself that mirror James Franco’s performance.  This extra is highly recommended.
  • 127 Hours: An Extraordinary View (HD, 35:50) – This is the meat and potatoes of the special features here.  This is your behind the scenes footage you all know and love.  I was fascinated by how they replicated the exact crevice where the real Aron’s story took place.  This was all done on a soundstage.  It’s simply amazing!  I love the magic of movies!  The cast and crew give us an intimate look at the making of.  This, by far, was my favorite special feature of them all.  You will also get to hear about James and his love of books.  But best of all, at least for me, there was a Rob Zombie reference/comment a crewmember made in regards to the set.  I love it!
  • Short Film – God of Love by Luke Matheny (HD, 18:46) – Before I begin…BEWARE…this short film has nothing to with 127 Hours.  So what the hell is it doing here?  I really wish I knew.  This won Best Live Action Short Film at last Sunday’s Oscars.  What’s it about?  Well if you can stand to sit through it, then you will find out that it’s about a jazz singer who becomes Cupid.  Enough said.  In my opinion, you can skip this!
  • BD-Live (HD, 3:53) – There’s a BD-Live exclusive that contains James Franco conversing with Opera Director Peter Sellars at the Telluride Film Festival.
  • Digital Copy (SD) – You know your iPhone and iPad wants this, right?  Don’t deprive!  Feed them!  This is obviously found on the second disc.

Final Thoughts  

Well there you have it folks.  There’s a reason why this film garnered 6 Academy Award nods.  It’s that good!  And if you are just sitting around right now reading this review, then I highly recommended that you get off your la$$ and go buy this now!  This is one man’s brutal true tale of survival and how he beat the odds to ultimately live his life to the fullest.  There’s a message found within this film that’s priceless.  I’m not going to spoil it for anyone.  Between the music of A.R. Rahman and the Oscar noteworthy performance of James Franco, this one is begging to be watched.  So what are you waiting for?  Feed your Blu-ray player what it wants!  Do it now!  If this film isn’t a real life Nike commercial, then I don’t know what is.  Bring it home today and support our site by ordering it here.  Thanks for reading!


6 Responses to “127 Hours (Blu-ray Review)”

  1. Gerard Iribe

    I still need to see this.

  2. Lauren Winston

    Great review! I too have not seen it yet, but with the motivation from this review, i’m getting off my ass to go do so. 🙂

  3. Gerard Iribe

    Oh, and Trainspotting ruled.

  4. Aaron Neuwirth

    Yes with Gerard, not sure what one can gain from knocking Trainspotting on a film website.

    I’ll never understand your Special Features ratings. Walking Dead got a passing grade despite leaving more to be desired, this has just the right amount of stuff a film like this would need (including a great commentary track) and doesn’t pass.

    Also, the award winning (and great) short film is here because Danny Boyle is a big supporter of young filmmakers. He did the same on his Blu-ray for Sunshine.

  5. Mike

    Great review, Brian. I saw this one last week, and – well, you already know the scene – when the tension ‘peaked’ (while he was hallucinating), I lost it – I had tears rolling down my face I was laughing so hard. I didn’t realize just how caught up I was in the movie until that point.

  6. Sean Ferguson

    Nice review Brian! I want to see this one!