Yeah, OK, Danny Boyle's 127 Hours is the movie about the guy who cut his arm off.
But it's not just a movie about a guy cutting off his arm.
Rather, it's about courage and adventure, about taking stock and embracing life. It's about a personal journey and coming face to face: with your worst fears, your greatest strength, yourself in all your flawed reality.
Based on the memoir by Aron Ralston, 127 Hours chronicles Ralston's well-publicized 2003 accident in which, while hiking alone in the mountain canyons outside Moab, Utah, Ralston fell in a crevasse and landed with a rock pinning his arm, miles from help or other humans. After four days, out of water and food, confronting death, he used a dull pocketknife to sever his arm, then walked to safety.
Just based on those facts, 127 Hours could have been the same movie as Buried, where a guy wakes up in a coffin and has to figure out how to save himself. But Boyle is too inquisitive and imaginative a director to make that claustrophobic a film.
Instead, he spends the first half hour of the film establishing Ralston (played with wonderful range by James Franco) as both a good-hearted type and an adventurous soul - one who escapes from the rat race for a weekend of biking, hiking and solo climbing. He comes across a pair of hikers (Amber Tamblyn, Kate Mara) and shows them a few of his favorite places, then heads off on his own.
But a misstep in a crevasse dislodges a boulder; he and it fall together and he lands on the bottom with his arm pinned under the rock. Nothing he tries - chipping at the rock, creating a pulley system, sheer brute force - works to dislodge his arm from its trap.
Though he gulps water at first, Ralston quickly realizes that this is life-and-death and begins rationing what he has left. He also assesses his equipment and what opportunities it might afford him. But mostly he stands there (and eventually sits, having put together a sling out of ropes), realizing that his life is running out.