127 Hours

Danny Boyle's 127 Hours devotes so little time establishing the main character of this riveting and, yes, briefly repulsive film that it got me wondering: Was Boyle using the harrowing experience of climber / cayoneer Aron Ralston as a device to put us all on notice that, to misquote the bumper sticker, "Life is too short to be a dick."

Of course, other readings are just as plausible, including that it is simply a cinematic rendering of Ralston's tale of his misadventure, "Between a Rock and a Hard Place." But Boyle (Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire, Sunshine) is such an intelligent and insightful filmmaker that I can't resist thinking more is going on here. No matter. It's a splendid movie whatever the case.

The supremely egoless James Franco carries this picture in a tour de force performance as Ralston, who was pinned by a bolder against the wall of a narrow canyon in Utah. Franco's Ralston is a rambling and self-centered man-child but not stupid or careless -- just unlucky. Through flashbacks and hallucinations we get a sense of who Ralston is, but it is never clear if these dreams are reliable memories, wishes or premonitions or a mix of all three.

Despite his quirkiness, Ralston's resourcefulness (and spiritedness) saved his life as he eventually snipped and sawed and hacked his way through the tissue, veins and nerves of his right arm to free himself from the rock. The amputation scene, which lasts about 3 minutes, is craftily staged by Boyle but it is, unquestionably, not for weak stomachs. Even so, it must be seen to get the full effect of this terrific film.

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