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Last week I got a chance to watch the film 127 Hours, the true story about hiker Aron Ralston’s ordeal in the Utah desert in 2003. For those who don’t already know the story, Ralston was hiking/climbing solo in Blue John Canyon, Utah when a boulder fell and pinned his arm, trapping him for days without food or water. [spoiler alert] In the end Ralston ends up cutting off his own arm to free himself and makes it home alive.

I have to admit I didn’t want to see this movie at first. I mean, I had already seen the in-depth interview with Ralston shortly after the accident so I knew how the movie would end. Plus I wasn’t sure I could stomach watching the film’s climax. But then last week a friend asked if I wanted to go and my curiosity about the film’s treatment of Ralston’s ordeal got the better of me.

127 Hours was directed by Danny Boyle who also directed Academy Award winning Slumdog Millionaire. The film starts with Ralston excitedly packing and driving out to the trailhead by himself for a weekend adventure. He jumps on his mountain bike and makes his way to the trailhead and you really get the felling this is an experienced outdoor enthusiast who is comfortable in a variety of situations. Along the way he meets some other hikers and shows us he’s a social guy, not some survivalist-type out to get away from everyone.

The director does a great job helping the audience imagine themselves in Aron’s situation. As the boulder dropped onto Aron my own heart sank with dread. What can he do to free himself? How can he use the items he has within reach? Then there’s also the “if only” thoughts that creep into the audience’s mind: if only he had told someone where he was going, if only he had been more careful, if only he had chosen a different route through the slot canyon… Clearly those thoughts were also going through the head of the real Aron Ralston.

From this point forward the movie has sort of a “Castaway” feel to it – an uncomfortable view into the world of a man who is trapped and alone. It’s a scary place for anyone to be alone and I learned some things from the way Ralston dealt with the situation (reminding himself at one point not to freak out, for example). By the end you can clearly see Ralston is getting desperate and you’re really rooting for him to do the deed and get it over with, no matter how painful it is to watch (let alone experience). I’m not going to lie: some viewers may want to close their eyes for this part of the movie (though fortunately the director doesn’t belabor it in any way).

Surprisingly the movie has a happy ending to it, despite Ralston’s loss. It’s an affirmation of life really and I came away wanting to hug my family and to live my own life more fully.

The cinematography is great and a real treat for outdoor lovers. The desert scenery is top notch and was actually filmed on location (or at least pretty close by). While 127 Hours isn’t playing in wide release you should be able to find a showing in most major cities. If not, definitely look out for the DVD!

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