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

Leave a Reply