The Sunday Poll: Is It Wrong to Resent “127 Hours”?

“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.

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6 Comments

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  1. I didn’t feel like I could respond to the poll because none of the answers quite represented my response. I watched the movie, and I do think as a movie it is interesting and well made. But I agree with you that he was very careless, and it is hard to not resent his becoming famous because of his mistake. But (perhaps spoiler alert) it seems that part of what makes him a powerful speaker is that in all of this he went through a process of realizing that he needed to include people in his life more, ask for help, and not be so arrogant.

    So I agree with you but I think the movie is worth watching, and maybe then (or with more reading about him and his process through it) you wouldn’t resent him as much.

    • Thanks, Abby. Always great to have another person’s thoughtful take. If learning to ask for help is part of his message, then that’s certainly worthwhile. I am seriously considering watching the film and/or reading the book.

  2. Wouldn’t this be a boring movie? Very boring? I mean, how long can you a tell a story about a rock and a hard place without creating a definite need for snooze? Who is he gonna dialog with? Himself? I guess. The rocks? And what can he talk about, other than how dumb he was to get himself into that situation? So you fall asleep only to be awakened by some loud scream when he cuts off his arm. He does scream, presumably. Or maybe not. It must have been a slow process. At any rate there must be some kind of initial noise that will rouse you from slumber and make you wish you were still asleep…

    I didn’t watch it. No plans to. Sounds way too boring.

    Better to watch those chainsaw movies. Pfft.

    • I would definitely rather watch this than chainsaw movies. There is so much wrong with them I can’t even get into it. I have to admit you have a point about skipping the movie out of fears of boredom. How interesting can the thing be when the guy is trapped in one place for the whole time? This is why (aside from my rampant claustrophobia) I skipped that movie that came out awhile ago about a guy buried alive. Apparently it was a pretty good movie, but how do you stand watching something when the majority of the action takes place inside a casket?

  3. “There are many things in life we cannot control. There are also many things we can, and we should seize them….” There you go. Best movie review so far. Every one with any backcountry skill knows you leave word with someone. Colin Fletcher was probably the most widely-read proponent of the leave-word principle. I’ll pass on this movie, while deploring the notoriety achieved from what my father would have called a damn-fool stunt.

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