Two “127 Hours” Things for You Today

Danny Boyle’s latest movie hits theaters today.  It’s a retelling of hiker Aron Ralston’s ill-fated journey at Utah’s Blue John Canyon when he was forced to cut off his own arm to survive.  The film stars James Franco.  And Boyle has always been a director worth seeing.  His films are visually kinetic, character-driven, and emotionally draining.  It appears 127 Hours is no different.

1. The New York Times’s A.O. Scott likes the movie quite a bit:

In bringing this horrific, perversely inspirational story to the screen, Danny Boyle has stayed true to Mr. Ralston’s can-do spirit. His new film, “127 Hours,” is itself the frequently dazzling and perpetually surprising solution to an imposing set of formal and creative conundrums. The stakes are not life and death, but rather life and art.

How do you make a startling, true anecdote into a dramatically satisfying feature film? How, more precisely, do you turn an experience of confinement and tedium — take a moment to consider the weight of that title — into a kinetic, suspenseful visual spectacle. How do you turn an immobilized protagonist into the hero of a motion picture, emphasis on motion?

The most obvious answer is that you cast James Franco, an actor whose loose physicality and free-ranging intelligence make him good company for a lonely spell in wilderness. (Another answer is to employ two nimble and gifted cinematographers, Enrique Chediak and Anthony Dod Mantle, and set them loose in some of the most beautiful places on earth.)

2. Slate addresses the horrific scene in question, the one where Ralston cut his arm off (well, between his elbow and wrist, actually) to free it from the pinned boulder:

I can’t tell you much about how sound and image worked together in that amputation scene, because, honestly, I watched that part through intermittently covered eyes. At this film’s Sundance premiere, there were reportedly audience members who needed medical attention, and I can understand why: Almost despite myself—indeed, as I continued to assess Boyle’s aesthetic choices dispassionately—the close-ups of a human being butchering his own limb like a leg of lamb made me feel icy-hot and clammy, as if I might pass out. (The cucumber-cool social columnist seated to my left seemed amused.)

I’m not sure when I’ll get to see this flick, but I’d love to do a James Franco two-fer and pair this with his turn as Allen Ginsberg in Howl.

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