Has everyone seen 127 Hours by now? I finally got around to watching it last night. Maybe I should say I watched most of it. There were some parts where I had to get up and walk around room. If you’ve seen the movie, you know the parts I mean. I don’t which was worse: the amputation or the urine drinking.
This is a strange film. Somebody asks you what it’s about, as my wife did before I popped in the DVD, you have to say, “it’s about that guy who cut off his arm.” Normally, that’s not a premise that would propel any film to the top of my must-see list — never mind Theresa’s. But it had a few Academy Award nominations this year and I’ve tried to see most of the films that did.
I’m still thinking about the movie today, so that indicates the Oscar buzz was not totally unwarranted. But I can’t help thinking it’s still kind of a thin concept for a film, even one that clocks in at a relatively short 94 minutes. A guy goes for a solo hike, gets trapped by a boulder, and spends the balance of the film deciding to do what we already know he’s going to do. I remember editing this story when I was working at the Philadelphia Inquirer in 2003, so I had a pretty good idea of how things would turn out.
That’s the problem with making films based on recent events. Most people know the highlights and the ending. In 127 Hours, the screenplay makes a game effort to string things out with escape fantasies and flashbacks and arty hallucinations intended to reveal the essence of the protagonist. But there’s an elephant in the room: sooner or later, that arm must go. That certainty, and the tension of waiting for it, makes everything else superfluous.
One other problem: At the end of the film, I didn’t know much more of Aron Ralston than I did at the beginning. His one big epiphany was that from now on, he’ll tell people where he’s going. I guess that can be a testament to the triumph of the human spirit, as the critics say, but it also can seem a little shallow. And maybe not worth the price of a good right arm.