Movie Review: 127 Hours

A film about a man cutting his arm off - but other things too

The problem with Frankie Boyle these days is you can see the punchline coming a mile off. In many ways it’s a problem shared by Danny Boyle’s new film, rock-climbing adventure 127 Hours. In both cases, when the money shot does come, it’s pretty distasteful.

Based on the real life misfortune of mountain climber Aron Ralston, principally, 127 Hours is eighty minutes of waiting to watch a man cut his own arm off. This in itself isn’t a problem, good episodes of Casualty have been based on less. But it does mean that you spend most of Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire follow-up knowing how the film ends. Again, this isn’t exclusively a problem – you may recall Titanic was hardly laden with twists. But when you consider 127 Hours principally sports a cast of one, the result is a tale that often drags, particularly in the middle.

Boyle does his best to give star James Franco (who, it should be said, is excellent) as much to do as possible. He eats, he drinks, he tries to free himself from the boulder trapping his arm. At one point, Boyle even writes in a distressing passage where Franco attempts to have a very sad wank. Within this isolation, hypnotic sequences appear, where the character contemplates his life and his place on earth. Some of these sequences are clumsy, but probably unavoidable given the solitude of the protagonist. Then there’s the grizzly bit. But it’s therein, as Franco/Ralston is freed from flesh and bone that the film finally reveals its true identity.

Disappointingly, there is no Bollywood amputee dance routine, but upon queuing up Sigur Rós euphoric ‘Festival’ 127 Hours reveals the purpose of it’s banality. It’s a film more in love with life than pretty much any film I’ve ever seen, and achieves more with one arm and ten minutes than it does within every other minute it clocks in. As Franco staggers to an awaiting medical helicopter, the film becomes an out and out celebration of life – all the more sweet for the sadness that preceded it. You’ll laugh, you’ll barf, you’ll probably be a bit bored in places. But if you can make it through all this you’ll find a film that’ll probably make your heart skip a beat too.

James McMahon