12 Years A Slave – A modern classic.

12 Years A Slave – A modern classic.

Watching new films I’m often guilty of looking for references, influences and comparisons to other films. In the case of 12 Years A Slave my mind, at various occasions was drawn towards Shawshank Redemption, Schindler’s List, Cast Away and, to my surprise – some of the viscerally ghastly torture-based horror films that have found prominence in the past decade.

Indeed, with the opening of the film artist-turned-director Steve McQueen appears to, quite deliberately, offer a set up that harks directly towards classic  genre horror – contrasts of light and dark, cranking sinister sounds punctuating moments of total quiet, with the ever growing sense of threat and dread.

Rarely has so brief an introduction to a film been filled with such a profound sense of foreboding.

12 Years A Slave may borrow from horror conventions but this is no Saturday night popcorn throwing thrill ride. Oh, it’s certainly a movie chock full of horror – but it’s a very real kind of horror. A horror that will stir your emotions and remain with you long after the lights have come up in the theatre.

Solomon Northup (played wonderfully by Chiwetel Ejiofor), a family man and gifted musician, is kidnapped and sold into slavery in an 1840s America growing ever more regionally divided. Based upon Northup’s own memoirs the film depicts his nightmarish descent into a brutal, hell on earth existence where freedom, dignity and humanity are stripped away as easily as the bloodied shirt upon his back.

Whilst seen through the harrowing eyes of Northup, the African-American man plunged into this awfulness, McQueen lets us see wider than the main protagonist’s own plight, examining the ways in which slavery as a system strips away the humanity from all who exist within its constraints.

We see this most vividly in the shape of Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender) the sadistic slave owner  under whose control Northup falls. Clearly cast to be Northup’s villainous nemesis, akin to the relationship between Andy and the Warden in Shawshank, the subtle difference here being that, for all the revulsion and disdain at his acts, there is a sense that our overriding emotion should be one of sadness at this retched, pathetic man – a soul tainted and destroyed by the society to which he contributes.

Indeed, as a counterpoint is the other slave owner given prominence in the film, Master Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch). A godly man, clearly of a more genteel and passive nature whose benevolence and empathy seems to stretch only so far, leaving him conveniently blind to the horror of which he’s a part – his tepid kindliness serving, ultimately, only to make the dreadful predicament worse.

As strong as these supporting roles are, it is the central performances of Lupita Nyong’O as fellow slave Patsey and Ejiofor who bring this heart-breaking story to life.

It’s through Patsey, as much as any other character, in which we’re given real insight into the true hideous cruelty of this world. Subjected to the appalling whims and varying moods of ‘Master’ Epps Patsey is the representation of an entire race of people rendered devoid of help or hope.

As for Ejiofor, under the pitch-perfect direction of McQueen, this remarkable actor produces one of the singular most moving performances you’re likely to witness. It’s a stunning display of physical acting – a man forced into servitude, his every moment in bondage, threatened by violence, torn of dignity – represented by the changes to demeanour, posture and loquacity.

As one might expect, there’s violence – albeit only occasionally on screen. However, when it arrives, it does so with a harrowing, unflinching eye that, at times, can be hard to bear on the viewer. Ironically though, it’s not these punctuated moments of violence that sears the heart and wrings the disgust as much, oddly, as some of the more seemingly benign moments. Acts of supposed kindness serve only reinforce who is in charge while, chillingly often, the white folk simply don’t even notice the existence of the slaves, certainly not on any human level. Epps leans upon the head of a slave as though nothing more than garden gate while Paul Giamatti’s slave-trader sells his ‘stock’ like cattle at the farmers market. And in one astonishing scene we witness this nonchalance of life as the audience is forced to view Northup’s terrible suffering as normality continues on around him.

Make no mistake, this is a quite stunning film and McQueen delivers every scene through a careful eye and considered mind. No movement, no sound, no word is misplaced, wasted or without meaning. From Epp’s dripping saliva in one moment of brutality with Patsey to the desperate cries for help from Northup, calling out in the shadow of the Capitol building.

The end, when it comes, may appear as somewhat swift, somewhat out of the blue and without any great epic action – there’s no elaborate escape plan in operation here, for instance. But that is to reflect upon the way it did happen, the reflection of Northup’s oft times helpless (but no less strong) situation. A story which requires no additional drama and delivering, in its finale a moment of simplicity that will devastate your emotions.

Deconstructing Die Hard – A Christmas Classic

Deconstructing Die Hard – A Christmas Classic

There are certain things, certain traditions which we all have to get the seasonal festivities underway. For me, there’s the usual decking the halls, putting up the tree, munching upon my first mince pie of the season (mince pie season begins on December 1st – it’s the law!) and settling, in the warm twinkle of the fairy lights, to indulge in some seasonal cheer with the annual viewing of Die Hard.

DIE hard

A Very 80s Christmas Classic


Action movies with a blood soaked body count as high as the profanity levels are not necessarily viewed as traditional Christmas fare – the violence and swearing is kept to a minimum in Miracle on 34th Street, for example. But, dig beneath the surface of John McTiernan’s high octane genre defining thriller and you will discover a film laden in seasonal festivity.

The film clearly seems to be aware of itself as a Christmas movie both in nods to tradition and indeed theme. There is a history of watching films at Christmas which deal in disaster and peril, thrills and spills.
EarthquakeThe Towering Inferno

Die Hard was following very much in the footsteps of films that had long since become standard Christmas viewing – from The Great Escape to the disaster movies of the 70s such as Earthquake or, and here the comparison is at its most explicit, The Towering Inferno. Having the story unfold at Christmas merely reinforcing the fact that, among the holly, ivy and sentiment, many enjoy nothing more than some escapist fantasy at this time of the year.

The fact that the film takes place on Christmas Eve is a plot device that instantaneously allows for the subversive juxtaposition of traditional Christmas imagery and symbols with the growing threat of impending violence.

All in the Music

This is brilliantly conveyed throughout the movie by Michael Kamen’s music score which sets both mood and tempo, fusing the sorts of heavy booming orchestral sounds found in contemporary actioners from Commando to Robocop or even McTiernan’s previous film Predator, with the softening jingle of traditional Christmas music. The effect of this wonderful mix is that we are constantly being kept ‘in season’ and offered reassuring reminders that, for all the violence and peril, we shouldn’t really be taking all this too seriously. See for instance the sudden shift from threatening boom to upbeat and light-hearted upon the arrival of the villains, music that’s as redolent of Wile E Coyote or Tom & Jerry as it is to your standard action flick – an indication that, for all the blood and language, we’re really in the realm of a playful cat & mouse story.


Die Hard – In Keeping With Tradition?

There is also, thematically, something of a traditional Christmas tale taking place beneath the surface – associations to the season that crop up in many guises throughout the age of cinema. The film’s hero John McClane (Bruce Willis) may appear to be a million miles away from, for example, George Bailey in It’s A Wonderful Life, and in many ways of course, he is.

However, there are parallels which exist. Both find themselves somewhat alone, desperate and very much on the edge on Christmas Eve and, while personalities and circumstances are very different, both will ultimately prove heroic to the community in which they exist in the film and, more so, both find the familial reconciliation they were seeking throughout.

Christmas stories have always played upon the idea that it’s a time for reconciliation and reunion – a time to appreciate what you have and maybe, a time of new beginnings. This is true of George Bailey, of Ebeneezer Scrooge and it’s true of both John McClane and indeed, his CB radio talking side-kick Sgt Al Powell (Reginald VelJohnson). McClane is estranged from his wife, Al is the father-to-be who’s lost his way (and his masculinity?) following a shooting in the line of duty – a man looking for, and indeed finding, a sense of redemption or re-birth amid the chaos of the film. Again, the leap back towards Dickens or Wonderful Life grows apparent.

One could even argue, in a more subversive way, that this is true of the villians – specfically of uber-villain Hans Gruber (the wonderful Alan Rickman).

Portrayed throughout as a sinister band of global terrorists it’s revealed to us {SPOILER} mid-way through the movie that they are in fact simply thieves out to steal a fortune. A revelation which seems to disgust McClane – the greed for money clearly a less noble pursuit than their mis-guided political activism. And isn’t Christmas always perceived as a little bit tainted when it becomes all about the money?


A Classic Christmas Comedy?

I’ve always seen DIE HARD as an action-comedy.

Never does the film take itself too seriously, never does it allow us the opportunity to do so – even when the violence is ramping up a notch.

Indeed, whenever the plot looks to be taking a more serious turn (McClane’s desperation, the killing of Takagi, Al’s monologue about shooting the boy) there is always an adjacent moment or set-piece which pierces the mood, reminding us that the director is keeping his tongue firmly in his cheek throughout.

Take for instance the moment the SWAT team arrive on the scene, armed to the teeth and hard as nails in their black, super-macho uniforms. SWAT teams, like those special forces boys and other ‘elite’ units, were a staple of those no-nonsense action films of the 80s. When they arrive, they mean business and are not taking any prisoners.

We see the unit, big guns at the ready, creeping through the hedgerows outside the building, like deadly ninjas moving in the shadows ready to launch their strike and ‘kick some serious ass’. As one of the faceless warriors moves through the hedgerow he catches his finger on a thorn – jumping and shaking his hand in pain.

And thus, all the machismo of the moment evaporates.

This is the beauty of Die Hard in one brief, easily missed, moment.Consistently it mocks the genre in which it is set, whilst simultaneously upholding the conventions. It’s mainstream film with an anti-establishment core. Authority figures gleefully ridiculed; we’re encouraged to laugh at FBI Agents Johnson & Johnson (no relation!) and their out-of-step sense of superiority, at the Police Captain who clearly doesn’t have a clue what’s going on or the slimy journalist who gets his comeuppance at the end.


New Action Hero

Let’s not also forget that this was the breakout movie for lead actor BRUCE WILLIS. Up until this point Willis was most famous for playing David Addison in the comedy detective TV show Moonlighting. And director McTiernan is clearly keen to let the spirit of Addison permeate through the movie as a device for both the character but, again, to allow the audience to go with the more self-mocking theme.

McClane is a tougher, more street-wise version of Addison and it is through him that we knowlingly wink at some of the more explicitly eyebrow raising conventions. We see this through his mocking self-commentary, the film’s version of addressing the camera which Addison used to do in Moonlighting.

Also however, in McClane we’re presented with a new style of hero versus others of the time. McClane is a reluctant hero, who doesn’t want to be fighting the bad guys and, while we see his undeniable bravery and heroism, we also see that he is vulnerable and far from indestructible. When he is hit or cut or bashed into a wall, he is hurt and we see this clearly. And rarely do we get the feeling that he is in full control – moreover that he is constantly having to think on his feet just to stay alive. Compare this to Lethal Weapon’s Riggs or the films of Stallone and Schwarzenegger, where you know they always have the upper-hand. In McClane you have the throw back to those heroes of the disaster movies of the 70s – of McQueen and Newman, Heston and Hackman.


Re-Defining its Genre

As much as I think it stands up as a comedy and indeed as a Christmas movie, it still has to be said that the film can be regarded as a quintessential film in the action genre.

As alluded to already, the film, through subtle parody, knowing winks to its heritage and characterisation, alters the direction that action films will take moving into the 90s.

Whilst the film takes something of an iconoclastic view of its contemporaries, it nevertheless reaches back into the pantheon of movie history, drawing on the traditions of old westerns. Gruber and his gang are as bandits from the ‘old west’ even if operating in the ‘new west’ while McClane is the lone gunslinger defending the isolated town (in this case the Nakatomi Building). The reference is, of course, explicit in the film – McClane calling himself Roy (as in Rogers) and as he shouts “Yippe kay-Ay Mother F@@ker” he is, essentially, melding the language of the old with that of the new (in Hollywood terms).

But, as fresh and as fun as the movie plays out, the genre conventions remain:

  • The slaying of the old leader (sheriff?) in Takagi creating a power vacuum that villain and hero fight over.
  • The main villain’s henchmen are ruthless but ultimately fodder for the hero, picked off one by one until the final shoot out.
  • The only other ‘innocent’ killed is the smarmy exec who, true to the in-built morality of these types of films, is punished for his sins. Before he pops off we see him snort cocaine, flirt with McClane’s wife, ultimately betray McClane and, in case we missed the drug thing earlier, is seen drinking COKE just before his demise. Not to mention the garishness of his minor wealth – the watch, fancy suit and general yuppiness, all of which were on the way to detestation by the late 80s.


Game Changing or One Off?

Undeniably, Die Hard represented a sea change in action films. And, through its success followed a succession of films that would use its blueprint – a trend that continues to this day.

Road House would follow shortly afterwards, another film about a reluctant hero and an even more explicit return to the spirit of an old western. Most obviously came Under Siege, the vastly inferior Segal film on a similar premise to Die Hard but ultimately fall flat because of the near indestructible nature of the hero.

Indeed, such was the epic qualities of the film, the fusing of its Christmas theme with the self effacing action heritage that little has come along in the 25 years since that has really compared. And that includes the numerous, ever deteriorating sequels that have come along.

Which is why, when considering the ideal film with which to get the festive cheer a fizzing, then by all means look at the beauty of Wonderful Life, the fun of Scrooged or A Christmas Carol, the warmth of White Christmas or the fun of Gremlins – but, for plenty of box ticking festivity, don’t discount Die Hard.

7 Classic Christmas Favourites

The Monico – A Cinema

The Monico – A Cinema

I remember.

Dark Fridays in November, when night would begin before day had a chance to properly end. When the air was cold and damp and light mist drifted along Pantbach Road, caressing the rooftops of the parked cars, swirling in arcs of light from the streetlamps. Friday nights when the queue would wind its way around the front of the large looming, yellow rendered picture house, disappearing into the darkness of the car park on Ty-Wern Road. Family treats – adults and children, husbands and wives, boyfriend, girlfriend, nervous young lovers in the first throes of awkward adolescent romance. Sombrely attired pensioners, silently judging the younger crowd.

Familiar faces. The woman with the earrings in the claustrophobic ticket booth, her bottom half forever hidden beneath the counter. The woman in the tuck-shop, her back always half turned, reaching for sweets or drinks. Mr Monico himself, standing at the back of the foyer, a bespectacled observer, immaculate in navy blazer and grey trousers, matching the neatly trimmed beard and receding hairline; his shadow crawling up the blue-grey wall, sandwiched between glass framed posters for ET and Rocky III. A man of severity, intolerant of those whose mischief threatened the wider audience’s pleasure .

We huddled, slowly moving, shifting patiently towards the small kiosk at the entrance to the foyer. Handing over money without thought for an evening’s entertainment – a ticket for the film and a box of something sweet. A drink – 7-Up or Coke or maybe a tub of orange cordial with the bendy straw that would spew juice as it pierced the plastic lid. Inching through the small and crowded foyer, adults holding children’s hands in the growing crowd of limbs and overcoats. A general murmur of clipped conversations as all headed towards the stairs; darkly lit and winding away from the hubbub below.That was the Monico.

Two screens, two theatres. Proudly boasting its use of Dolby Stereo. Cinema 1 – the original auditorium, bigger than its newer, more intimate counterpart. Soft lighting and an aura of red. The heavy velvet curtain at the front, draped from ceiling to stage. The piano to the left that harked back to an older, more silent age. Two tiers of deep red, soft cushioned seats, faded and worn by generations of backsides. Dust and nicotine tinged smoke drifting up into the spotlights as the theatre would slowly fill and settle. Underfoot the carpet, hidden in the darkness, detected only by its sticky grip from fallen popcorn and pastilles.

No matter the film, the feeling always the same. Anticipation and excitement that grew with the bobbing heads and swaying shoulders, with the elbows that rubbed on reluctantly shared arm rests; while the curtain slowly raised, the huge screen tantalisingly revealed. It was the knowing. The knowing of what would follow. The same old comforting rituals of commencement. A shaft of dusty light overhead firing from the small window at the back of the theatre, the screen before us turning blue, a black splodge within. The music starting and faint white writing appearing, moving closer in a wonderful, ludicrous, 20 second fanfare of our childhood.

Pearl & Dean, purveyors of cheap local advertising. Poorly scripted, badly filmed, jumping and skipping grainy images to entice us to the local Indian restaurant, travel agent, tyre repair specialists. To remind us of the treats in the foyer, Westlers Hot Dogs, cowboys and Indians informing us all of bite after bite after bite of processed pleasure; or Butterkist popcorn with its cheerleading chant:“Butterkist, Butterkist, rah, rah, rah.”

And then the trailers. The teasers of films to come – as exciting as the main event itself. A glimpse into the future. A source of conjecture and anticipation.

“I’ve got to see that.”

I remember these nights and the many films. The screen fading, the theatre dimming to black, the hushed silence or the whoops of over-stimulated teens. The whirr of the projector, the BBFC classification page, wobbly on the screen and then…

Star Wars, Grease, ET or Indiana Jones. Sci-fi or comedy, action, romance. James Bond or Crocodile Dundee.

That was the Monico. Rainy school holidays watching Disney’s latest fairytale. Visits with mum, with dad, with friends, with cousins. Later, with girls. That was Saturday morning cinema club. An onslaught of local kids, dropped off on wet weekend mornings; minors hopped up on e-numbered treats, entrusted to the care of Mr Monico and the cheery patience of Uncle Ian, the good-natured moustachioed host with the thankless task of containing and entertaining armed only with scratched copies of old Flash Gordon episodes and the delights of the Children’s Film Council – Calamity Cow or Anoop the Elephant. Being called onto the stage to a chorus of cheers and jeers if it was your birthday. Little kids standing somewhere between proud and shell-shocked with their 10 Today badges pinned to their jumpers while Uncle Ian tried to lead a tone-deaf rendition of Happy Birthday that could make or break your big day.

The lights of the projector dimmed for the final time in 2003; another independent cinema wilting and ultimately dying from the might of the multiplex. Ten and twelve theatre behemoths sucking the life from the smaller sites.  In its place a block of inoffensive but largely uninspired apartments – we used to call them flats.

I’m as guilty for its demise as anyone else. As numbers dwindled and the breeze became more pronounced through the fire exits; as the yellow stuffing forced its way through the stitching of the worn red seats, I, like most other regular cinema goers, finally succumbed to the comfort and variety of the large cinemas down at Cardiff Bay and Nantgarw. The Monico’s time had past. And yet its passing left a void. Bulldozers rolled sadly in and the walls finally crumbled, leaving in its wake a poignant void as another monument to my youth disappeared, fading into a foggy past.

That was the Monico

A cinema.

On Rhapsody In Blue

On Rhapsody In Blue

Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin was playing on the radio as I drove in the car earlier this morning. It’s a piece of music that I rarely listen to but have always loved. A piece of music that provokes the imagination, attaches itself to memories.

Now, for a filmic fool such as I, it immediately brings to my mind Woody Allen’s Manhattan – both his classic movie and indeed the general idea of Manhattan that exists throughout all of his New York based films (the older, funnier ones or otherwise). There’s good for reason for this, of course, namely because it is the music that works as a backing track in Allen’s masterful love letter to the city, in particular the iconic opening scene – the black and white imagery of the skyline, the city, the streets; the music accompanying Allen’s voiceover of the writer, struggling comically to find the right words with which to open his New York themed story.

But Rhapsody’s influence on the mind certainly doesn’t begin and end with Woody Allen. The score itself is a soundtrack to New York – a composition that pays homage to the era and city in which it was born. Written and first performed in New York in 1924 Rhapsody In Blue is the anthem of New York’s golden age. This is the Manhattan of Wharton, of Scott Fitzgerald’s Great Gatsby; of high society and seedy speakeasies. From its warbling woodwind opening, the distinctive clarinet solo and brass accompaniment, Gershwin blends classic orchestral composition with a rattling jazz sound that’s emblematic of the ‘Jazz Era Roaring Twenties,’ of the grandiose and the opulence that heralded pre-Wall St Crash Manhattan and the rise of the great melting pot metropolis as a global city.

It’s a grand, sweeping score of rousing orchestral highs and gentle, seductive piano lows, the slow pace of a cold and hung-over morning, the sudden bursting to life of a bustling avenue. Music that rises and falls like the skyline, again to reflect this burgeoning age of the towering skyscrapers. Over more than fifteen minutes the score ebbs and flows, meanders and accelerates, every note, every change of pace or instrument reflecting the growing diversities of the city, the changing moods and varying sounds – from the rattle of the subway, the tumult of Times Square or the tiptoe through the quiet streets at night, moving between the shadows and rising steam of the manholes.

It’s all rather explicitly romanticised to be fair – reflective of a New York that exists through the softening lens of the film camera or, indeed a poetic imagination.

This is exactly why it retains such significance for me. I was an American Studies student in Liverpool in the 90s and Rhapsody brings me back to the lecture halls of those days – particularly the early days of the course, prior to me actually having the opportunity to visit New York, experience it with my own eyes, ears and, indeed nose. Before heading stateside myself I grew immersed in the history and literature of post-Civil War America – noting, as is true of Pre-Great War London, how the socio-politics of an age rub, often awkwardly, with the artistic output of the time and place.

I was growing interested in the changing times but more so of the writing of the era – of Wharton, Hemingway, Pound, Fitzgerald et al. The Lost Generation, decamped to Paris as their fictionalised accounts of ‘back home’ took on a form of reality. Listening to the opening solo of Gershwin’s masterpiece sends me, not only to this idealised, fantasy New York, but to a cold classroom at a Liverpool campus on a wet Tuesday morning sometime towards the end of 1993.

A scene, I suspect, that’s someway removed from the ‘musical kaleidoscope of America’ that Gershwin himself envisioned.

127 Hours by Danny Boyle (Review)

127 Hours by Danny Boyle (Review)

Many years ago I got stuck in a lift. The lights flickered, the whirring of the wires ceased and silenced and the doors remained closed as the small metallic compartment ground to an unexpected halt halfway between the 3rd and 4th floor of the hotel I was staying in at the time.

Almost immediately I felt the cold shiver of sweat as every pore on my body went into panic stricken overdrive. My heart rate sped up then slowed down then sped up again sending me into a vertiginous spiral of giddiness and terror. I was trapped and in all likelihood, I was going to die. Slumping against the side of the lift I reached out and banged the walls, thumped the buttons and contemplated adopting the foetal position and sobbing.

The lift, as though embarrassed into action by my overt lack of courage, shook and rattled into life. The lights came on, the wires whirred and we reached the 4th floor whereupon the doors opened into the hallway of freedom.

It was the scariest 30 seconds of my life.

About 15 minutes into 127 Hours, the Danny Boyle film about the canyoneering adrenalin junkie (some might say nutcase) Aaron Ralston, I turned to Mrs Me and suggested that I wasn’t altogether sure I was going to like this. Not that I thought it wouldn’t be a good film – Danny Boyle doesn’t really do bad films – just that, well, I figured that I wasn’t really up for being terrified.For those who don’t know, this is a film about a man who falls into a narrow crevice, getting trapped courtesy of a rock pinning his arm to the wall, whilst out trekking all alone in the rocky Utah desert. He remains trapped for the 127 hours that is the film’s title.

From the very moment that Ralston (played quite brilliantly by James Franco) gets himself trapped I could feel myself tense up. Virtually all of the action takes place within the confines of the narrow crevice, the walls looming up and around both Ralston and the viewer causing minor empathetic palpitations from this claustrophobe. As Ralston struggles to free his arm, first by pulling maniacally at it, then trying to hit, stab, and verbally abuse the rock into shifting, then by devising a makeshift pulley system that proves futile I found myself short of breath, wanting to look away, maybe even turn the DVD off and go for a walk, get some open space. In turn however, I found myself hypnotised, unable to actually move or shift my eyes from the screen. The horror, and horror there truly is in this movie, was all too gripping and all too real for me.

Many, I realise, will not get this reaction from the film. It is a personal thing – I hold a genuine and mortal fear of being trapped, and the thought of something similar happening to me sends me cold with absolute dread. However, the film is more than a personal attack on my phobias. It’s also a superbly well made film. Boyle intercuts and offers relief from the situation through flashbacks and dream, fantasy sequences. But the respite is painfully brief, always being brought back to the canyon before sufficient relieving breath can be drawn.

As with all of Boyle’s films, 127 Hours also boasts a killer soundtrack. But, unlike other contemporary film-makers, the music plays integrally to the story, rising and falling with the mood and character development and like with previous film Slumdog Millionaire, the backbeat and sound always adds some organic element to the atmosphere, as though the music itself is as much a part of the landscape and world as the inhabiting characters – in this case, the literal chasm between Ralston’s high adrenaline life and the sudden chilling stillness of his incarcerated predicament.

Those who know the story will also know that Ralston’s ultimate plan to escape, the decision he finally needs to make in order to have any chance of ever leaving the canyon, is the centrepiece of the movie. We move inexorably towards this moment, a slow and deliberate trek. For those who don’t know what this course of action is then I won’t spoil it. However, be warned, if you are of a particular squeamish disposition this is a prolonged scene, albeit remarkably well crafted in which we don’t really see as much as we think we do, which is as tough and as grisly to endure as any you are likely to see on screen. Forget the guff and nonsense of Saw or Hostel or any of those other torture porn flicks that have invaded our senses in recent years – this is the real, visceral and horrific deal that will have you wincing, panting and, according to a recent interview from Boyle on Radio 5’s Wittertainment show, in some cases humming.

127 Hours is hard work. I got there in the end, persevered through. It’s a brilliantly made story that plays upon a fear that is very personal and terrifying to me and I’m sure to many others. But more than that, it’s another example of Boyle taking a simple idea, a simple tale and telling it superbly well, with an unflinching eye, allowing the horrors and indeed the joys and elations to unfold naturally and without too much prodding.

I loved it but, if I’m honest, I’m not sure I could endure it again.


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