he highly anticipated — and, some say, overwhelmingly graphic — film 127 Hours hits theatres today. Starring James Franco and directed by Oscar-winner Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire), it tells the true story of adventurer Aron Ralston, who spent five days trapped in remote Utah with his arm pinned beneath an 800-pound boulder before he freed himself by sawing off his own limb. The notorious 4-minute amputation sequence has left audiences members at early screenings faint, nauseous, and in need of medical assistance. Is the film, rumored to be a major Oscar contender, must-viewing despite the gross-out factor? Should you bring your own paramedic? (Watch a trailer for 127 Hours)
Go see it, even if you gag: Yes, some scenes are hard to bear, says A.O. Scott in The New York Times. "The cracking of a bone, the severing of a nerve, the desperate consumption of a water bag filled with urine." But this "nearly flawless" film is "more than worth a jolt of discomfort or a spasm of revulsion." Thanks to Franco's "goofball energy," Boyle's "speedy, jumpy style" and "two nimble and gifted cinematographers, Enrique Chediak and Anthony Dod Mantle," it "pins you down, shakes you up and leaves you glad to be alive."
"The tale of a shocking fall and a gritty resolve"
The arm-sawing is symbolic, not sensationalist: Boyle manages to "rivet an audience when his protagonist can't even move," says Owen Gleiberman at Entertainment Weekly. And that's because the movie's compelling and highly relatable theme is freedom. "Aron may be pinned, but his soul gets unlocked, and when he finally faces up to what he has to do, he's not just cutting off his trapped appendage. He's cutting off the part of himself that was only pretending to be alive."
127 Hours is a gimmicky bag of cheap tricks: "Danny Boyle is modern cinema's most virtuosic whore," says David Edelstein in New York. With 127 Hours, he "gives us a music-video-style exercise in boundless freedom, cruel confinement, and crippling/liberating self-mutilation that makes for just about the ultimate trick." This trying, "garish spectacle" of a film "leaves you jittery, a little crazed" but it leaves you with little else.
"Movie review: The ick and wow of 127 Hours doesn't add up to much"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Why would a young person today be religious?
- Why we can't stop procrastinating, according to science
- 31 TV shows to watch in 2014
- He said he was leaving. She ignored him.
- Why Holy Thursday is so important to Christians
- Why I'm a pro-life liberal
- How Captain America won over China
- Texas has been holding this man hostage for 12,600 days
- Israel and Russia are getting along. Have the neocons noticed?
- 3 ways elephants and neuroscience can help you make better decisions
Subscribe to the Week