Boyle's follow-up to his Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire is the true story of hiker Aron Ralston (James Franco), who was trapped in a Utah canyon, his right hand pinned by a fallen boulder, for five days until he took extreme measures to get himself out.
It should be no surprise that the two reasons to see this film are Franco's honest performance and Boyle's inventive direction. The film is ostensibly a one-man show, but unlike the vaguely similar Buried, Boyle sees no need to have all of the action take place within his protagonist's claustrophobic surroundings, and instead he (and cowriter Simon Beaufoy) loot through Ralston's head much of the time, visually depicting the unlucky adventurer's every delusion, desire, memory and hope as well as his physical struggles for survival.
It's a gripping, funny, highly original piece, and if a scene or two may not be for the squeamish (you must have lived in a cave yourself over the past decade if you don't know how Ralston escaped), don't let that deter you from seeing the film. It's really good. And in the end, Ralston is depicted as both an everyman stuck in a grim, what-would-you-do? situation and as a a particularly selfish adrenaline junkie who comes to accept his fate as something deserved.
On a personal note, I found it interesting that Ralston became trapped on April 26, 2003 - my 33rd birthday. I remember the day well, as I was working on the audio mix for my feature Claustrophobia before heading out to dinner with a girl I was dating at the time. Since the film takes detailed notes of the hour and date of nearly every scene, it was a strange reminder that as I was tooling away on my movie, Ralston was battling his boulder.