The prospects, from the premise, look far from thrilling. A film adaptation of the real life story of extreme sports enthusiast Aron Ralston (James Franco) who in 2003, following a freak accident, found himself trapped on the inside of a canyon by a boulder pinning his arm to a wall.
Five days later, having extinguished his supply of food and water and seeing various attempts at freeing himself fail, he decides to amputate his trapped arm; his only instruments a blunt pocket knife and a makeshift tourniquet.
An incredible story, no doubt. But one that surely seems more suited to the small screen than the big one. In the hands of any ordinary director and actor the film could have turned into a overwrought, sagging snooze-fest. Thankfully though, Boyle and Franco are no ordinary combination and in their hands the story becomes a blistering, gut-wrenching ride that ranks amongst the most intense cinematic experiences of this year.
And while reports of audience members fainting seem a little over the top, ‘The Scene’ is just as toe-curlingly painful and nauseating as one would expect it to be. But this, quite obviously, is unavoidable. As Ralston lurches from his initial sense of panic to an acceptance of his fate, to then go easy on the audience at the final moment and to sanitise the experience that the real-life Ralston endured would be to inflict the severest case of cinematic blue balls imaginable.
It just couldn’t be done any other way; and deep down we all know this. This is not arbitrary gore along the lines of ‘Saw’ or ‘Hostel’, it serves a real purpose: to represent the truth of what really happened.
Seemingly using every trick that he has accumulated over his near twenty year career Boyle’s frantic 1990’s MTV style aesthetic – which can occasionally be quite jarring to some – works perfectly here. From split-screen openings, time-lapse photography, flashbacks to childhood, Scooby-Doo hallucinations and even the dreaded video diary none of these, surprisingly, ever feel gimmicky or forced and succeed in making the film as accessible and approachable as a film about a man who cuts off his own arm could ever hope to be.
Some people will describe ‘127 Hours’ as one of the worst date movies ever created but I can’t help feeling like this is a little unfair. Granted, if the film faded to black immediately after the three-limbed Franco stumbles away from the boulder your overwhelming desire would probably be to crawl into the foetal position and cry yourself to sleep as quickly as possible.
But it doesn’t. There is still Ralston’s rescue which is a scene just as effective and moving as any scene from this year. As a result you leave the cinema exhilarated with a burning desire to live life making ‘127 Hours’ one of the best films of the year and far from a mood killer.
Just don’t make dinner reservations for immediately afterwards.