I suppose it's a testament to the supreme craft and professionalism of Danny Boyle and his crew that watching 127 Hours feels a bit like having surgery; the kind where you're asked to bite down on something. It's gut-wrenching in a queasy, horror-movie way – a shield-your-eyes-from-the-screen, chuckle-in-relieved-astonishment sort of experience, done incredibly well. Which is to say: you probably already know whether or not you're interested.
Then again, if you're at all familiar with the book or true story on which the movie's based, you probably already knew. There is, for once, truth in advertising. This is a film about a dude who goes exploring in a remote part of Utah's Canyonlands National Park, has a mishap, and gets his arm pinned under a rock. And gets stuck, alone, with a single Nalgene water bottle, a sandwich, and no cell phone. And eventually... Well, either you know how the story ends or you don't, in which case you can likely guess. Suffice it to say that what does happen, we see and hear in excruciatingly painful detail – including what may be the single most horrifying sound effect in movie history.
This may sound like odd subject matter for the flashy, exuberant Boyle. 127 Hours is not his first attempt at a genre film, but his others – the zombie flick 28 Days Later and the underrated sci-fi drama Sunshine – both had an epic sweep that's the antithesis of this purposefully compact story. Literally trapped in a narrow crevasse, Boyle instead expands the film through his protagonist, but there too, his ambitions are modest. It becomes, believe it or not, a sort of brutal coming-of-age story.