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While mountaineering is one of the most exhilarating of sports it has
produced little good fiction, and few good fictional movies, though
there have been some excellent documentaries ('The Man who Skied Down
Everest', the Imax 'Everest' film, for example). Somehow, when it comes
to fiction, the clichés take over, and this film, with some genuinely
gorgeous camera-work and impressive stunts, is full of them. The
wealthy megalomaniac determined to conquer K2 at any cost, the climber
who lost his nerve when his father was killed who pushes himself into
action to save his sister, stuck in a crevass high up the mountain with
the moneyed one, the bitter old man of the mountains who is essential
to the rescue, the guide who has sold out, It's all there. One does
expect some improbability of plot in a film like this, but the thought
that someone might cart Pakistani Army liquid nitro-glycerine in back
packs to the top of K2 to blast a crevasse open really was a bit much.
Apart from a very attractive opening sequence in Utah (Monument Valley, I think) the film was shot in the New Zealand Alps, with a few clips of the genuine Karkoram Himalaya spliced in. For this viewer, it brought back pleasant memories of climbing in the University holidays around the Southern Alps. But climbing is a dangerous sport; on one trip I was accompanied by four people, all of whom subsequently died in separate climbing accidents (one on Makalu, next to Everest). There is a fair amount of special effects malarky (no-one, not even Temuera Morrison pretending to be Pakistani, would fly an old military helicopter so close to a mountain wall at 21,000 feet), but there are also some genuinely stirring shots.
Unfortunately, the acting for the most part matches the script. Chris Connelly, good at sensitive young men, is wrong for the brother bent on rescue (it's more of a part for Bruce Willis), and Bill Paxton is only moderately menacing as the ruthless Richard Branson-style billionaire. In fact the only decent piece of acting is Scott Glenn's Wick, the veteran with attitude. The'comic' Australian climbing brothers, Ces and Cyril, or whatever their names were, were profoundly embarrassing I guess Ben Mendelsohn will be hoping no-one will recognise him with a balaclava on his head. There were also lackluster performances from the two female leads, Robin Tunney and Izabella Scorupco. One of them, Scorupco, is an ex-Bond girl ('Goldeneye') the casting people obviously didn't realise she was going to be spending the entire movie wrapped up in Gore-Tex. There's no sex at high altitude it's too damned cold and anyway survival takes precedence over procreation.
I think Roger Ebert got it right on this one a 'B' movie with an 'A' movie budget. There are all sorts of anomalies the lack of visible water vapour issuing from the climbers, their sprightly behaviour even after hours at 26,000 feet, the use of north wall hammers to attack a rock/ice pitch, the miraculous helicopter piloting but somehow the magnificence of those great peaks comes through. The worst thing about a movie like this is that it portrays the mountains as hellish, which is far from the truth. What is it the psalm says 'I will lift up mine eyes to the hills, from whence cometh my strength'? Climbing is one thing I have never regretted doing, and it would be a pity if people were put off the sport by stuff like this. Actually I think the people who do attempt peaks like K2 would see this film as preposterous, overblown Hollywood brown smelly stuff, and they'd be right. But there is some nice scenery.
How can anyone spend so much money and make a picture like this? The
effects were good but how many really stupid / bad things can happen in one
film or one person's life. If only two of the many, many catastrophes that
happened in the movie happened in real life it would be like lightning
striking you twice. Everything that the actors did (pretending to be the
best of the best climbers) seemed to go against them. Really, do you think
a professional climber would leave his back pack where it could slide down
the mountain? This is your life we're talking about. How about a nylon
climbing rope that snaps two feet above the ground just after stopping a
long fall. You can't see anyone's breath and it's cold up there. But the
way, there aren't any open flame fires that I know of (unless the fuel
contains it's own oxygen) anywhere near that altitude. Or how about a
professional climber (who relies on good lungs) that smokes. Really, enough
If you can't think well you might like this movie but it you have some brains, no way! No real plot development - only special effects over and over and over...Unfortunately not even plausible special effects. Jumping a crevasse (didn't they know it was there before they took that route) and actually sticking to the other side. Come on!
I could go on and on but I won't. Nice scenery though. I like the actors but not in this movie.
Well, that's my take and thanks.
I'm surprised by all the hostility shown toward this movie on IMDb. Had I read the reviews here, I would have skipped this well-made and entertaining film. For one thing, it was a pleasure to see an action movie that didn't involve guns and shooting - enough of that nonsense. Instead, this film is full of spectacular scenery, good looking actors and actresses, and some unexpected insights into issues of morality, judgment and sacrifice. As far as the accuracy about details of climbing, I couldn't care less. This is not a how-to movie. And as for the wisdom of transporting nitroglycerin across dangerous terrain, check out Henri-Georges Clouzot's masterpiece, "The Wages of Fear" or its excellent remake by William Friedkin, "Sorcerer." Neither one of these great films was hampered by such a questionable premise. I highly recommend "Vertical Limit" for exciting escapism.
Having climbed in the Andes, Tian Shan, St. Elias and other
mountain ranges across the planet, I was often asked what I
thought of this movie, and it's accuracy.
This is, without doubt, the least accurate film on climbing I have
ever seen. This movie is simply absurd. I consider it about as
"accurate" as, say, Spy Kids is to global espionage.
In addition to the gaffs pointed out, I wanted to state what was
most amusing to me: Inside the crevasse, the climbers ice tools
bounce off the crevasse walls like they're made out of solid steel
(and 'ping' just like it). But when Chris O'Donnall does his full
sprint (at altitude!) and huge leap across a cavernous abyss, he
drives his ice tools into the other side - made of solid rock - and
sticks like Spiderman. The film is filled with many other absurd
implausabilities that insult the sport it manipulates in the guise of
Aside from that, as so many others have noted, the movie is
simple minded action. If you don't mind laughing at much of it, and
don't for a moment think it represents realistic climbing, leave your
brain at the door and you might have some fun. But most people
will just find it absurd rubbish.
In this high-octane action film, three climbers make stupid decisions
at 26,000 feet, en route to the summit of K2, the world's second
highest mountain. The climber's peril thus necessitates a rescue, which
puts additional people on the mountain and at risk of dying. That's it.
The story is thus fairly thin, but the filmmakers insert all kinds of
natural and human obstacles, conflict, and difficulties to rev up the
action and excitement.
The film's CGI creates compelling tension. We have the illusion of vertical scale, or perspective, which translates into a needed sense of vertigo. The sensation that the characters could, at any moment, fall to their deaths is the film's strength.
The mountain scenery is also nice, although it is sometimes wasted, because of the film's fast pace. Cinematography is quite good. And some of the scene transitions make the film flow really well.
Dialogue seems flat to me. Production design and costumes are adequate. Acting is largely irrelevant.
By far, the biggest flaw is the unrealistic amount of action. In the plot, everything that could go wrong does go wrong, from bad weather to avalanches to exploding nitro to human conflict and discord. It's all a bit much. But, that seems to be a problem inherent to outdoor action films. Directors cram in too much chaos.
Another minus is the background music, which is irritatingly nondescript. For a film set mostly in Asia, I could have wished for more indigenous music which, when combined with the majesty of the mountains, could have added emotional depth and a sense of mystery and awe.
"Vertical Limit" does have an emotional spine to its story, but that is secondary to the super action plot. Viewers who expect well thought out characters, meticulous plotting, or a subtle "theme" will need to look elsewhere. This film is strictly for people who like heavy-duty outdoor action.
When I saw this shortly after it came out on DVD, it got high marks
just for the spectacular sound alone. It had some of the best
rear-speaker sound I had ever heard. It was a showpiece for DVD players
at the time.
The movie is interesting with it's main fault being a common one: overdone action at the end. Along the way, however, it has many almost jaw-dropping scenes and some spectacular mountain scenery which looks great on the sharp DVD transfer. The stunt work in here is also incredible. Martin Campbell, the same director who did The Mask Of Zorro and Goldeneye, is good at producing eye-popping action scenes.
The dialog at times is juvenile, but it could have been worse. The profanity was lower than expected, too. How accurate is it concerning mountain-climbing? Probably like most films: totally inaccurate, at least that's what a mountain- climbing expert told me, and I believe him.
All in all, however, a far better film than I expected.....strictly for the entertainment.
Usually I do not care very much for mountain climbing films as they usually have a very similar plot. This film had plenty of action with Helicopters flying all over the place and horrible snow storms and also entrapment in caves deep under tons of snow and ice. The film starts out with a father, son and daughter adventuring up a steep mountain during a very sunny day and having a wonderful time with each other. Their father was a very experienced climber and all of a sudden a tragic situation happens and a horrible life or death decision had to be made within seconds. There is lots of scary scenes and plenty of explosions and more action than you can handle.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Not only vertical but also horizontal limits are achieved after watching this "heroic climber film". Go see 'The Eiger Sanction' instead. It is embarrassing to see how the climbers are portrayed here. They are clumsy, stooped and drag some weird explosives to the mountains. There is also a mysterious snowman-climber and king of the hill who lost his wife years ago and lives now only in mountains and his only food is mantra "om mani padme hum". Certainly not believable either. Chris O' Donnell though is a good actor and the other "members" of the cast are also good. This is worth 2 votes. What this film lacks is reality based storytelling. There is also a bit of a problem with timing, film is a little too long.
It's not the painfully thin story line, predictable plot or shallow
stereotypical characters featured in this movie. It's not even the constant
stream of amazingly improbable events, which give you the feeling the
director hopelessly underestimated the reasoning abilities of his audience.
What left me disappointed and even a bit annoyed after seeing "Vertical Limit" is the absolute and total failure of this movie to capture any of the real thrill, excitement and hardship involved in scaling the world's second highest mountain.
Books like Jon Krakauers' "Into thin Air" and movies like David Breashears' "Everest" prove that you don't need helicopter rotor blades threatening to dismember climbers or unstable nitroglycerine that explodes if exposed to sunlight to create an exciting story. When Martin Campbell decided to deny the audience any sense of the real technical, physical and emotional challenges of climbing K2, and therefore had to resort to action-movie style heroes, villains and explosions, he left behind a movie too unconvincing, for me to enjoy.
This movie is a so-typical Hollywood action-flick you almost can't believe
it. It seems like the producers looked up this bunch of cool gadgets
mountain climbers use (many of which are sharp or have pointy ends) and
tried to portray some of the most irresponsible climbing you could think
Sure, it's hell if your sis is stuck in an avalanche on K-2 but, as some climber already pointed out in basecamp, you don't go risking another six people to 'possibly' get two down. Besides, there are better ways to do this than by strapping a can of nitroglycerine to your back.(small note: dynamite is essentially chalk soaked in nitro which stabilizes it. Guess they hadn't thought of that?)
Furthermore, you never climb beneath another group's ropes (lest they fall and drag you with them...), you do not sprint across a ridge wearing glacier-irons, you do not sit on a 5cm ledge without a safety rope attached, you do jump out of a helicopter trying to fall down unless you intend to end up spaghetti.
In short, this movie severely damages the image of the real mountain climbers, who consider safety and precaution a way of life and not something to disregard to look cool.
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