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There is reason to be doubtful whether the story of a not too pleasant person who gets stuck between a rock and a canyon wall and stays there for 127 hours is very thrilling a premise for a 90 minute movie. Especially so as the majority of the audience knows in advance whether he gets out dead or alive and in which shape. It is not just based on a real story, but the film’s promotion is very open with the way the finale turns out. I was a bit surprised that they are, but don’t mind it. Movies that merely rely on the quality of their final scenes, on whether “he gets her”, “he gets out” or “they win” are rubbish or made by M. Night Shamalalalaly – usually both.

After 10 minutes my skepticism felt confirmed: the expected things had happened, and he was stuck. Now it was waiting time, waiting for the surely not very pleasant final act. I am sure the producers felt the same skepticism when Danny Boyle approached them with the script, and I am also sure that there are few moments in few directors’ lifetimes that open the window for this kind of film: having just been drowned in a tidal wave of Oscars for Slumdog Millionaire certainly helps create that kind of window.

And to my surprise, this actually works: Boyle and actor James Franco lead us into an (almost) eternal nightmare and the complete range of available emotions: starting with utter incredulity (which seems odd at first, but is a perfect fit once we learn more about the guy’s character later on), rage, despair, cynicism, humour (yes! Great radio show he puts on), and never without vanity. He documents every step of his fate with his camera, and even if he claims it is for his parents in case he does not make it out of his calamity, it is actually because he cannot help but act and pretend and be cool.

The flashbacks on his life, the visions of his friends and his family confirm that we have met a person who should not be surprised to end up rotting in a ditch – and in the best way of the classical Bildungsroman we find out he is able to learn, if the hard way. He has 127 hours of education and catharsis to work through, and it is enjoyable, if grim, to watch him in his process. And good luck he’s an engineer…


  1. Franco pulls this role off so well, and brings a lot to the table as this character isn’t very likable, but he wins you over with his signature likability he brings to every role. Good Review!

    • indeed, that seems to be the secret: that they managed to only glorify the action, but not the man himself. My favourite scene makes this point: right after the stone hits him, he does not look to be terrified or in pain, but just dumbstruck, incredulous that such a thing could happen to him, king of the world and prince of the canyon. The film could be called “Arrogance – shattered” 😉

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