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Gut-Wrenching 

Danny Boyle and James Franco made one hell of a movie.

click to enlarge That Petzl lamp won't light the way out this time.
  • That Petzl lamp won't light the way out this time.

Watch out, kids. Spoiler ahead!`This is about a fellow who likes extreme sports, focusing on the kicks he gets out of rock climbing and spelunking out in the middle of nowhere, always on his own, accompanied only by enough gear and supplies to get by. This kind of subject matter could make for a film that seems as long as its title suggests — except that, in the case of Aron Ralston (James Franco), his adventure turned into a misadventure. A big one that had him trapped, far away from any help, for ... well, there’s that title again.

The spoiler? The film is based on Ralston’s memoir, Between a Rock and a Hard Place, which means he made it through his dilemma. Yup, at film’s end, Ralston survives.

It’s not a problem knowing this because, had he not, there never would have been a book or a film — and even if there was a film, it would’ve been a bummer. Which 127 Hours is definitely not. It’s a celebration of the human spirit.

British director Danny Boyle is an insightful and exciting filmmaker who goes out of his way not to repeat himself. He made the grim Trainspotting, the horrific 28 Days Later, the lilting Millions and the Oscar darling Slumdog Millionaire.

Still, why would anyone want to sit through a movie about a guy stuck at the bottom of a desert crevasse, trying to escape but more likely waiting to die? I had doubts about it and was grandly rewarded both emotionally and as a film fan.

Boyle opens with some blatant foreshadowing: close-ups of a pocketknife and some water. We’re introduced to Ralston’s boundless energy, shown that he’s a charming, friendly fellow (though he’s happier when alone) before joining him in a misstep that sends him to what, by all odds, should have been his final resting place.

What makes this all so gripping and — believe it or not — so much fun is Franco’s terrific, upbeat performance, along with Boyle’s sometimes frantic, often jaw-dropping melange of camera movements and visual styles, as well as tricky mix of reality and fantasy going on in his character’s mind.

Though many of you know exactly how Ralston got out of his jam, plenty of you don’t, so it won’t be revealed here. But Boyle has never been afraid of letting blood flow in his movies, and for the weak of stomach out there, know that things get rather gruesome. Is it worth going through all of this? Hell, yeah. You’ll want to get up and applaud, even though (hint) Ralston wasn’t able to do that when he saw it.

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