Friday, November 26, 2010

If you're wavering on seeing 127 Hours, you CAN handle it.

There has been much discussion regarding the slow expansion of Danny Boyle's dynamite drama 127 Hours. Much of it has revolved around a certain moment that occurs towards the end of the picture. Sure, the film is based on a somewhat publicized true story, so this might not count as a spoiler, but I'll try to be vague for those not in the know. Anyway, in the same way that The Cove had to deal with people who were generally interested in its content (an expose on the practice of dolphin slaughter in Japanese waters) but didn't particularly want to sit through images of dolphins being graphically killed onscreen, 127 Hours has a major handicap in regards to both its mainstream box office success and its Oscar hopes. In a just world, the film will end up scoring at least a Best Actor nomination (if not win) for James Franco, who dominates the film in no less a potent manner than Natalie Portman owns every moment of Black Swan (review for that one coming after the holiday). But there is a genuine concern that enough people will pass on the terrifically engaging and intense character study because they know what happens and are not sure they can handle it. So for those on the fence, here's the scoop:

I cannot imagine what on-screen imagery has caused people to allegedly pass out during pre-release screenings. The big scene was actually far more 'tasteful' than I was expecting. Like any number of classic gross-out sequences that aren't (Se7en, the 'Home' episode of The X-Files, etc), it's edited in a way to make you think you're seeing far more than you're actually seeing. Point being, when the film comes to FX, the network will probably have to edit around six shots give-or-take. The idea of what trapper climber Aaron Ralston attempts to do in order to save himself is much more disturbing than the actual footage of him doing so. And by the same token, the idea of what he is willing to do to survive is what the film is about, not you the audience actually sitting there eyes stretched open Clockwork Orange-style watching every moment of said scene. For what it's worth, it's far less graphic than the opening scene of Saw VI, which has a token similarity (yeah, that's a spoiler by association, but if you're a fan of the Saw films, you're probably not squeamish about seeing 127 Hours).

And, yes, if you want to see the movie but don't want to deal with said moment of intense violence, then you can close your eyes and your ears for about thirty seconds and be done with it. Sure, you'll be cheating yourself just a little, but you'd be cheating yourself more if you miss out on one of the better films of 2010 because you're afraid that you won't be able to handle it. 127 Hours goes into wide release next weekend. If you're considering seeing the film but worry that it will be too much for you, don't sweat it. Like many of the most intense and/or scary moments in cinema history, it's more about what you think you're seeing than what you're actually seeing.

Scott Mendelson

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