“How about ‘127 Hours’?” my mom said as we browsed the movies On Demand this weekend. “NO,” I said.
At first I assumed it was because no film whose climax comes when the protagonist snaps off his own arm could be watchable. But then I remembered my similar refusal to read the book it’s based on, “Between a Rock and a Hard Place”, by Aron Ralston.
I’m familiar with the story. Ralston goes climbing in a Utah canyon, gets his hand stuck under a falling rock, waits a few days, amputates his own arm with a dull knife, and hikes to his rescue. Now he’s a world-renowned author and motivational speaker, and one of America’s handsomest actors was nominated for an Oscar for portraying him in a hit film. But my resentment of this inspirational survival story goes deeper than simple squeamishness about do-it-yourself amputation.
The truth is, the whole thing never should have happened. Most accounts of Ralston’s adventure I’ve read make a point of explaining the circumstances of his predicament: he did not take a cell phone, and he did not tell a single person what he was doing. There are many things in life we cannot control. There are also many things we can, and we should seize them, especially when life is on the line.
If Ralston had taken a phone along, or if he had said to somebody, “Hey, I’m hiking Blue John Canyon today, I’ll give you a call tonight when I’m back,” his story would have been nothing more than a two-minute cautionary tale on the local evening news. I get even more annoyed when I learn that he is an honor society member who studied mechanical engineering at Carnegie Mellon. Surely such obvious brain power could harbor a modicum of common sense?
It’s terrible that he lost his arm and that he suffered such a long ordeal. But to me, the wonder of his survival can’t eclipse the monumental stupidity that led to the incident in the first place.
Should I cut off my simplistic resentment and just watch the movie?
Perhaps I’m too hard on Aron Ralston. I really don’t know much about him. Perhaps he uses his fame to teach proper preparation for outdoor adventures. Perhaps awareness of his mistakes has saved others. And I’ve heard it’s a pretty darn good movie.