I’m not good with gory bits in movies. Often, I end up watching my wife Shelley while she reacts to them. At the very least, one hand covers my face as I pretend to peek through protective fingers.
So, after reading some early reviews of 127 hours, and the gut-wrenching scenes that reportedly had viewers leaving the cinema, passing out and even throwing up, I didn’t fancy my chances at seeing much of the nitty gritty.
Aron Ralston’s solo-canyoning-turn-rock-trap-epic in remote Utah has become almost as well known as Joe Simpson’s Touching the Void.
‘So, could you do it?’
‘Cut your own arm off?’
After sitting through a rather explicit depiction, I’d have to say…probably not.
But it’s not just about that moment. Director Danny Boyle does a great job retelling the drama, playing a deft hand with an action-consequence type narrative. The main protagonist, James Franco of Spiderman bad-guy fame, realises he needs other people in his life, especially when his borderline Darwin Award adventures finally place him in this predicament. This is nicely done, without hyper-focussing on the obvious ‘tell someone where you are going’ moral to the story. Franco is an inspired choice for playing Ralston. He revels in the role.
I hate the term, but Franco and Boyle ‘keep it real’. There’s enough early life reflection and delusion-based imagery to break up the narrative, but not too much that it bogs down. The cinematography is spot on, and a cameo by Scooby Doo nicely edgy. There’s one scene where Franco suddenly manages to get his pack off the shoulder of his trapped arm – an impossible feat without undoing it or sliding it down over his body – but this is a minor blip. It only shows up because all of the other survival details are observed so closely.
It would have taken a lot of courage for Ralston to agree for his experience to be told on the big screen. Forget the money. This is about opening yourself up – exposing your failings and weakest moments – to hundreds of thousands of strangers. But then to bring footage of Ralston and his wife and son into the final frames of the movie – like Sean Penn also did with the tragic Chris McCandless story Into the Wild – adds to the authenticity.
And now to the moment: I managed to watch most of it, which is to say that it’s not too gory, rather than me outdoing myself. Be prepared. It is realistic. But, even allowing for my weak constitution, it needs to be.
Score: 4 out of 5