Category Archives: DVD

Touching The Void: A test of will, strength, and endurance

TOUCHING THE VOID is a stunning and suspenseful documentary of two mountaineering friends who are confronted with the climb of their lives in South America. In 1985, Joe Simpson and Simon Yates set out to climb the west face of Siula Grande, a remote 21,000 peak in the Peruvian Andes.

Joe and Simon are young, ambitious, and ready to take on the world. Each enjoyed the solace of mountain climbing and its thrills and adventures. After conquering various Alpine mountains they turn their attention to a particular mountain in Peru that had never been climbed before.

After three treacherous days they reach the summit, but little did they know that their adventure just began. The pivotal moment occurred when Joe suddenly fell and suffered a serious, painful broken leg. Certain that his fate was sealed Joe expects Simon to leave him behind.

But Simon did everything he could to help Joe, which included the slow and tedious process of going down the mountain inch by inch while on their back or side. But disaster struck again when Joe became suspended in air after falling over an edge.

Simon, in an act that will cause controversy and alarm, cut the rope that sent Joe tumbling into a crevasse without much hope for rescue. Meanwhile, Simon returns to base camp thinking that Joe never survived the fall. He is full of grief and fear. But what he doesn’t know is that Joe indeed did not die and is slowly climbing down the mountain on his own. He suffers extreme pain, dehydration, frostbite, and fatigue.

This film contains narration by Joe and Simon with reenactment footage that creates a powerful and emotional experience for the viewer. Although it is obvious that Joe has survived the ordeal, one can’t help wondering how this can be true.

I was certain that he would die on the mountain alone in his pain and suffering. What makes this a strong film is that much time and effort was dedicated to detailing the psychological drama that Joe suffered since his leg was broken.

As a result the viewer is given a frank look into his thoughts, emotions, and fears. It was certainly a glimpse which is difficult to shake. It is easy for the audience to become “involved” while watching this film.

Many people squirm in their seats and gasp out loud and these two men rehash their story. The stunning cinematography and audio results in the audience being sweep away in the drama. Heck, there were many moments when I thought I was on the mountain too.

One doesn’t need to be an expert at mountain climbing to enjoy this film. Any novice will fast become interesting in the fate of these two men. I must more appreciate the risks involved in this sport, and would highly recommend this film Touching the Void to others.

A DVD review by S. Calhoun “rhymeswithorange” (Chicago, IL United States), courtesy of Amazon.com

National Geographic – Everest 50 Years on the Mountain (2003)

Ever since I read the fascinating book “Into Thin Air” by Jon Krakauer, I have maintained an interest in Mt. Everest. I read several more books on the subject (and the tragedy that Krakauer wrote of). I also saw a few documentaries and a terrible “made-for-TV” movie on the tragedy. I saw the I-Max movie and still, I always looked forward reading or watching anything else I could find.

“Everest-50 Years on the Mountain” is as good a visual presentation as any I’ve seen (the I-Max movie aside). It tells of the attempt by the sons of Tenzing Norgay and Sir Edmund Hillary to climb Mt. Everest together. I didn’t really find their story all that compelling but it was as good an excuse as any other to put this National Geographic special together. What I did enjoy was the background information, especially about the Sherpas, and how they were able to include a lot of historical film into the story.

Most of all, I enjoyed the film of the mountain and the climb that was documented. The photography was fantastic as well as instructive. It helped me retrace the steps that Krakauer and company took in “Into Thin Air” by showing what he wrote of. The climb to the Hillary Step was very instructive by showing just how much exertion and rest was required to take three or four steps.

The crowds that Krakauer commented on were there as well as the bored millionaire looking for something different to do. However, we were not burdened by having to follow the millionaire, we were able to focus on a group of men who made the story all the more interesting. We saw them at their best and sometimes at their not so best.

I have looked more and more these days for the sort of National Gepgraphic specials that I used to covet seeing when I was growing up. The Society has expanded more into history these days (or so I judge from the available DVD’s on Amazon.com). Maybe that’s because the wilderness has been tamed too much to compell us like it used to. However, I found “National Geographic – Everest 50 Years on the Mountain” to be the quality of special that I was looking for. I’ll be watching this one again and again.

A DVD review by Randy Keehn (Williston, ND United States), courtesy of Amazon.com

Vertical Limit – A mountain madness story

I love climbing books. I love climbing movies. Therefore, I was thrilled when this movie came out. It is an action packed, edge of your seat, high altitude climbing film. No doubt about it. There is even a cameo appearance by mountaineer Ed Viesters. The only real problem with the film is the plot. It is downright unbelievable, at times. If, however, you can suspend disbelief, you will still enjoy this film. I know that I did.

The film revolves around a brother and sister, played by Chris O’Donnell and Robin Tunney, who are estranged following the death of their father while climbing. His death scene is a real nail biter, as it deals with a situation that a climber hopes never occurs. Three years later, the sister is climbing professionally, while the brother has retired from climbing and is, instead, working as a photographer for National Geographic.

He and his sister inadvertently meet up on K2, the second highest peak in the world and probably the most perilous to climb, while he is on assignment for National Geographic, and she is there to climb. The sister is set to climb K2 as part of the climbing team put together by a millionaire played by Bill Paxton. For him, K2 is a trophy mountain, and he plans to climb it with the intention of reaching the summit just as the inaugural flight of the airline he owns is flying overhead. He has put together an ace team, but, alas, K2 has a mind of its own.

While climbing, they are overtaken by a storm, after the millionaire disregards his lead climber’s warning that the team should turn back. The sister ends up falling into a crevasse. An avalanche kills off the rest of the team, except for the lead climber and the millionaire, who join the sister in the crevasse. Hypoxic and injured, they maintain radio contact with base camp and let them know of their predicament.

The brother now steps up to home plate. Organizing a six person, rescue team led by a stereotypic mountain man, wonderfully played by Scott Glenn in a standout performance, the brother sets out to rescue his baby sister, and the fun begins. The climbers each set out with a canister of nitroglycerine, as they plan to set off the nitroglycerine in order to get the three surviving climbers out of the crevasse which has been covered over by the avalanche.

Give yourself over to the dazzling mountain views, the stunning, hair raising, mountains madness, and try to ignore the silly plot. Anyone who knows anything about mountains would know that setting off explosives on snow packed slopes is tantamount to an open invitation to avalanche, something no climber wants. Notwithstanding this, get set for an action packed adventure. Despite the silly plot, it is an otherwise entertaining and enjoyable film.

If the crunch of crampons on ice is in your blood, if you love the idea of an ice axe saving you from a fall thousands of feet off a cliff, if the idea of a cornice breaking off, while you are standing on it, is a challenge to your climbing skills, then this is definitely the movie for you. If the words avalanche, hypoxia, and pulmonary edema are all in your everyday vocabulary, then you, too, will enjoy this film. If you just like action packed adventure, make sure you also see this film. I am sure that you will enjoy it.

The DVD itself is an excellent value. It comes laden with a number of special features, including a National Geographic special on K2, featuring Jim Wickwire and Rick Ridgeway who, in 1978, along with Lou Reichardt and John Roskelley, were the first Americans ever to reach the summit of K2. The DVD also shows you how some of the stunts in the film were done. All in all, this DVD is well worth buying, and the film is well worth watching.

Reviewed by Lawyeraau (Balmoral Castle), courtesy of Amazon.com