I knew I’d never be a doctor because of TLC. Back when the name still stood for “The Learning Channel” — because you would learn things other than “little people are just like us” or “how many babies can fit in one uterus” — the cable network would air what seemed like hours of surgery footage. Open heart, liposuction, colonoscopy: My continued reaction of blearggghh! helped narrow the list of possible career paths. While that may no longer be the case for TLC, there’s a new round of squeamishness-testing, courtesy of the upcoming film 127 Hours. Directed by Danny Boyle and starring James Franco, it tells the story of Aron Ralston, the mountain climber and outdoorsman who, in 2003, was forced to amputate his right arm after spending five days with it trapped by a boulder.
While the film doesn’t even come out until Nov. 5, the centerpiece scene of self-surgery has already left a few early audiences feeling a little light-headed. News of people fainting at a special Pixar-hosted screening join reports of paramedics being called to the Toronto Film Festival premiere. Ralston, who’s seen the film six times at this point, confirmed to EW that he himself was at more than one screening at which audience members fainted. (For more from Ralston and Franco on 127 Hours and its side effects, see next week’s issue of EW.)
Having seen 127 Hours, I can tell you that the scene is indeed intense, but I definitely wouldn’t call it gratuitous. Most of the reactions that haven’t been syncopal, including mine, have been positive. In a way, though, maybe the faintings can be considered a positive reaction. Movies like Saw, Hostel, and Saw XLII are definitely worse in the gore department, so it’s not just purely a reaction to blood. In my eyes, Boyle and Franco do such a great job of keeping your attention rapt on one character and making you empathize so fully with him that once they get down to the nitty-gritty, you start suffering from a condition I’ll call “Franco limb syndrome.” Even at my screening, while there was no fainting that I saw, there was plenty of moaning and unconscious arm-grabbing. Hey, what better compliment than proof that they’ve made you literally feel for a character?
What do you think, PopWatchers? Are any of you squeamish enough to let this prevent you from seeing the movie? Should they sell smelling salts along with the popcorn at the concession stand once it hits theaters?