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Movie review: '127 Hours' an all-time great

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127 Hours
Directed by Danny Boyle
Starring James Franco, Clemence Poesy, Kate Mara, Amber Tamblyn
Rated R
4 stars

***

If you’re squeamish, don’t let reports of fainting moviegoers dissuade you from seeing Danny Boyle’s terrifically horrific tale about Aron Ralston, better known as that-hiker-who-cut-off-his-own-arm.

The movie opens innocuously. Ralston (James Franco), an outgoing, cocksure adventurer, heads off to Utah’s Canyonlands National Park for some solo biking and hiking. He meets two girls and shows them an underground waterhole, which leads to some giggly, flirty fun before they part ways.

Savor these carefree moments, because around minute 20, a dislodged boulder falls and pins Ralston’s arm to a canyon wall. Talk about a hubris fail.

Ralston devises some novel escape plans: He assembles a pulley with climbing rope and attempts to hoist the boulder up. He tries to chip away at the boulder with a dull knife.

However, as minutes turn into hours and hours into days, despair and anger cloud his determination. He turns to his video camera for companionship, leaving entertaining, wrenching and heartfelt testimonies in the event of his increasingly likely death.

Boyle’s hyperkinetic filmmaking pumps amazing energy into a movie with very few changes of scenery.

By the time Ralston finally performs the excruciating self-surgery, your heart is thumping outside your chest. Each stage of Ralston’s pain, from the bone-snapping to the nerve-severing, is accompanied by shrill sound effects that easily could be used as torture devices. If you want to experience a more subdued version of the scene, cover your ears.

It’s a horrific story, but Boyle takes care to bask in the raw thrill and exhilarating beauty that stirred Ralston to embark on the adventure in the first place.

Between Boyle’s visceral sensibilities and Franco’s emotional performance, which could easily earn him an Oscar nomination, “127 Hours” will haunt and rouse you for days.

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