Stuck between a rock and, well, a bigger rock…

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by Ross Dickie

“127 Hours” is a film which would probably never have been made if not for the critical and commercial success of its director’s previous feature, “Slumdog Millionaire”. Danny Boyle had apparently been toying with the idea for quite some time but knew that none of the major studios would touch the thing with a barge pole. It’s not hard to see why. The film revolves around Aron Ralston (James Franco), an experienced climber who was forced to amputate his own arm when it became trapped by a boulder during a hike through Blue John Canyon, Utah, in 2003. Ralston’s story is clearly an inspiring testament to man’s survival instinct and will to live, but should it really have been adapted for the big screen?

The answer is an unequivocal ‘yes’. A man stuck in a canyon, drinking his own urine and cutting off his arm with a blunt penknife does not sound like a great premise for compelling cinema, yet somehow Boyle manages to make it work. The film’s 94 minutes are interspersed with a series of flashbacks and hallucinations which serve to lighten the mood and draw pressure away from the lead. In spite of this, the movie is essentially a one man show and Franco delivers the best performance of his career to date. Impressive in “Milk” and soon to take on the role of Allen Ginsberg in “Howl”, not to mention “Pineapple Express”, the Green Goblin’s son is turning out to be one of the great actors of his generation. With the aid of Boyle’s direction, Franco manages to draw the audience into the uncomfortable, claustrophobic environment of the canyon: I frequently found myself willing his escape attempts to work, even though I knew how the story was ultimately going to end.

Having heard that some audiences had thrown up on viewing the amputation scene, I spent most of the film nervously waiting for it to arrive. Although it is quite gory, it does not last long and is certainly not a good reason to avoid seeing the movie. The industry needs directors like Danny Boyle and films like “127 Hours”, if only to keep things fresh and stave off ‘rom com’ saturation. So go and see it for cinema’s sake and just cover your eyes if things get too bloody.

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