Big-screen amputation

22:01, Feb 08 2011

So, anyway, there I was wandering off the plane into Auckland airport the other day, where (just like in the movies) a guy in a uniform was holding a sign with "Ms Agnew" written on it - spelt correctly and everything. So not my usual Saturday at work.

The guy was a concierge from a posh hotel, sent to pick me up and whisk me away (the limo was a hybrid so it was PC-ecofriendly luxury ... it even had a little  flag on the bonnet, that's how posh it was) for an interview with Aron Ralston, the man better known as "the guy who cut his own arm off".

And since Danny Boyle has made a really rather good film about him, Ralston will now become known as the guy James Franco plays in 127 Hours. Ralston told me it was probably weirder for his sister seeing Franco play him on the big screen. She has a bit of a crush on Franco, you see, and became a bit conflicted at seeing this cute guy pretending to be her brother ... poor girl.

It felt completely incongruous, having spent 94 minutes stuck down a canyon crevice with his proxy, to now sit opposite the real guy watching him sip a cold glass of mineral water. You gain a whole new appreciation for cool, clear water after seeing a guy reduced to drinking his own urine out of a Camelbak...

It's no spoiler to tell you that at some point in the film about someone whose arm gets pinned by a 400kg boulder, he's going to have to cut his arm off.

It's a pretty visceral experience, to say the least. People have fainted.


It only lasts a few minutes in the movie, but it actually took Ralston - who was already starving and dehydrated after five days with little food and water - an hour to sever his arm.

He had to use the leverage of the boulder to break the arm bones - there's no way his cheap, blunt multitool blade would have cut through bone. The really nasty stuff (for me, at least) was the detail... there's no way you can get through seeing this film without sucking air sharply through your teeth. (Fainting is optional.)

Incidentally, 127 Hours, after an appeal, has been rated RP16, meaning that people under 16 can attend if accompanied by a parent or guardian -  a rating rarely used in New Zealand. The original rating by the film censors, the Office of Film and Literature Classification, was the more restrictive R16. (20th Century Fox appealed on the grounds that 127 Hours is "a quality film, telling an inspirational true story, which also contains a powerful public service message about risk and consequences".)

So, it brings to mind the question: what's the best (or indeed, worst) amputation you've seen on the big screen?

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