Aron Ralston (James Franco) is a man with a passion. He considers his second home to be the canyons near Moab, Utah, and he enjoys spending his weekends canyoneering and exploring the vast wilderness. Alone.
Our hero’s adventure begins the day he leaves. Not leaving a note or telling anyone where he’s gone, he packs up and goes mountain biking through the impressive desert landscape. He meets two lost travelers, and plays guide for the day, showing them the sights and spelunking throughout the area’s many caverns. Kristi (Kate Mara) and Megan (Amber Tamblyn) invite him to a party they’re throwing the following night, and he replies that he would like to attend once his trek through the canyons is complete.
Soon after they part ways, tragedy strikes. A loose boulder that Aron thought was secure slips under his weight, causing him to plummet into a dark chasm and the rock lands on him, pinning his right arm. Unable to free himself, Aron begins trying to chip away at the stone, desperately trying to free his arm so he can escape and seek help.
Aron’s only companion in the dark pit is his camcorder, which he uses to record videos of himself, giving status reports, and gradually, as his grip on reality loosens, hosts his own reality TV show, with himself as the guest. Aron’s ordeal grows increasingly dire as he begins running out of food and water, and the nights are very cold, which he did not come prepared for. As his physical condition worsens, Aron begins to recall events from his childhood, old lovers, and even imagines what Kristi and Megan’s party would be like. He comes to the conclusion that he is selfish and treats those around him poorly.
Aron makes a few attempts to cut off his arm, but his knife was dulled by chipping away at the rock, and he finds himself unable to cut through the bone. In a last, desperate attempt to save his own life, he breaks his arm and is able to amputate his crushed hand in a very slow and difficult to watch scene. He then manages to climb out of the cavern to seek rescue.
This film is interesting because of its depiction of both Aron’s struggle for survival, and his coming to terms with his own shortcomings and personal failures. As the film progresses Aron makes the transition from a stereotypical lone adventurer to a rounded character with a past that is able to reflect upon his mistakes and learn from them, and how they lead him to be alone in the cavern. This is also a great product placement advertisement for Canon, as his camcorder lasts over 127 hours through his ordeal.
This is a good film to see if you like stories of man against mountain, where the man lives to tell the tale. There are two morals to this story: to care about the others in your life and to treat them well, and to always leave a note when engaging in foolhardy adventures.