Danny Boyle, 2010
BBFC rating: 15
Self-surgery is quite an ordeal for someone with the training, skills and equipment to carry it out - as recorded in this case report of a surgeon who, stuck in the Antarctic and faced with death as the alternative, removed his own appendix. Included are extracts from the surgeon's diary:
An oppressive feeling of foreboding hangs over me ... This is it ... I have to think through the only possible way out: to operate on myself ... It’s almost impossible ... but I can’t just fold my arms and give up...
I didn’t permit myself to think about anything other than the task at hand. It was necessary to steel myself, steel myself firmly and grit my teeth...
I grow weaker and weaker, my head starts to spin. Every 4-5 minutes I rest for 20-25 seconds. Finally, here it is, the cursed appendage! With horror I notice the dark stain at its base. That means just a day longer and it would have burst...But even this looks controlled and safe compared to the 'operation' Aron Ralston carried out on himself five days after his arm became trapped under a huge boulder down a crevice in the middle of a desert. He had to deliberately break both bones in his forearm before cutting through the muscle, blood vessels, tendons, nerves and probably various other tissues that would be very painful to snip using a blunt penknife. 127 Hours, as its title implies, tells the story of what happened over that period. Now the story above might make you wince in sympathetic agony, imagining the horror of being faced with the choice between that and death yourself. Or you might agree with Michael Legge (I usually do; his blog is brilliant, the best written by a comedian that I know of) who has a less sympathetic take on the scenario:
The whole way through the film your head can't help shouting "YOU STUPID FUCKING PRICK" constantly. Who the fuck does these things? Who invented extreme sports? Why is smashing yourself to bits thought of as a rush? Isn't Batman on the Wii enough? 127 Hours is a true story about a man who likes going into the middle of the desert, WHERE NO ONE CAN FIND HIM, and climbing deep down into tiny crevaces hundreds of feet into the rock. WHAT A CUNT. I hate him. When he falls, traps his arm and spends six days going insane until he cuts his own arm off, it was all I could do to stop myself standing up and shouting "THERE YOU GO, YOUNG MAN. YOU DESERVED THAT..."I can see his point.
As Ralston waits to die - slim chances of rescue slipping away - he remenisces about an ex-girlfriend, played by Clémence Poésy (seen recently in Harry Potter and Heartless), whose presence would brighten any film. Like The King's Speech, this is a true story so its narrative and conclusion are unlikely to surprise anyone. The only mystery is how Boyle is going to make it interesting. Which he does, with brass knobs on. It's certainly more interesting than reading interviews with Ralston himself, who seems to largely blather on about fate and Gaia and spirituality and other such drivel. 127 Hours is totally gripping, in part because of the memory sequences and the hallucinatory sections (which play out much like the cold turkey scenes in Boyle's Trainspotting). But it's also remarkable just how enthralling the footage of a man stuck under a rock manages to be.