A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this intense drama from the director of Slumdog Millionaire is based on a true story about a hiker trapped in the bottom of a canyon for more than five days, his arm pinned between a boulder and the canyon wall. Although there's some very gruesome self-inflicted violence as the main character (who's played by James Franco) attempts to free himself -- some audience members reportedly passed out at preview screenings -- ultimately 127 Hours is a positive, life-affirming story about overcoming incredible odds. Those who have the stomach for the bloody parts can also expect some heavy language (not all that surprising, considering the movie's circumstances), and flashback scenes with drinking and sexual situations. There are also notable beverage product placements (Gatorade, Coke, Perrier, etc.) as the main character gets thirsty and dreams of something to drink.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
One weekend, Aron Ralston (James Franco) decides to go hiking and climbing by himself. He haphazardly packs his backpack with water and supplies and heads out. He spends some time with two girls (Amber Tamblyn and Kate Mara), who are lost and shows them an underground lake. They part ways, and a little later, Aron slips and falls into a canyon. A boulder lands on top of his arm, pinning and trapping him. For five days, Aron tries to escape, rations his food and water, tries to keep warm, and passes the time by remembering and imagining his friends and family. He eventually decides that, to escape, he needs to make a painful sacrifice.
Is it any good?
Franco gives a powerhouse performance in the one-man centerpiece role, humanizing the movie and providing its emotional core. Directed by Danny Boyle (127 HOURS is his first movie afte the Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire) the movie is very slick and stylish, including shots from inside a water bottle and X-ray shots of Aron's arm, as well as a large collection of fantasy sequences and flashbacks and clever, effective cinematography and editing.
You could argue that this high style is gratuitous, but on the other hand, it may be necessary to help the very intense material go down a little smoother; it gives viewers occasional rest breaks and moments of hope. It's interesting to compare 127 Hours to another one-man "trapped" movie, the almost totally stripped-down Buried. Both movies are powerful in their own ways. But 127 Hours will no doubt resonate more with audiences, given its ultimately hopeful message and themes of bravery and heroism.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the movie's gory parts. Were they absolutely necessary to tell the story? How did seeing those scenes make you feel? Could you feel the pain the character was going through? How was this accomplished?
Did Aron do everything possible to free himself? What could he have done differently? What would you have done differently?
Are movies based on real lives/true stories more interesting than those that are pure fiction?
- In theaters: November 5, 2010
- On DVD or streaming: March 1, 2011
- Cast: Amber Tamblyn, James Franco, Kate Mara
- Director: Danny Boyle
- Studio: Fox Searchlight
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 94 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language and some disturbing violent content/bloody images
- Last updated: February 20, 2020
Our editors recommend
For kids who love dramas
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
Streaming options powered by JustWatch