For anyone who follows my site will know that a while back I reviewed a personal favorite movie of mine called Into Thin Air: Death on Everest which was a television dramatization of the events that occured in the Everest Disaster of 1996 that ended in the tragic death of five climbers. While I do admit that the movie is flawed and on a technical stand point, nothing to write home to mom about. I do love watching the movie and watch it from time to time on Netflix. This is key because this spurned me to watch the movie that we are talking about today in the year 2000 called Vertical Limit. A movie about a group of climbers that become stranded on K2 after an avalanche. In my young mind, knowing that I loved Into Thin Air spurned me to see this mountain climbing adventure and as a kid I proudly proclaimed ‘eh’. It was okay but even in my warped love everything mind, I still wasn’t impressed by it and after watching it again as an adult, I realize just how bad this stinker of a movie actually is. Directed by James Bond director Martin Campbell, this film was meant to be a non stop action mountain climbing adventure. But instead it flopped onto the screen and then immediately flopped out of the minds of the people willing to watch it.
After the tragic climbing accident that lead to the death of their father, estranged siblings Peter and Annie Garrett (Chris O’Donnell and Robin Tunney) find themselves in Pakistan. Peter, photographing snow leopards for National Geographic and Annie climbing with legendary climber Elliot Vaughn (Bill Paxton) who is attempting his second climb on K2 after the first attempt ended in the tragic death of most of his team. Annie and Peter still show animosity towards one another due to the fact that Annie blames Peter for their father’s death due to the fact that Peter cut the rope at their father’s request, saving them, and killing their father.
The climb however meets an unfortunate fate as a freak storm rolls through, causing an avalanche and thus trapping Annie, Elliot, and the head of the operation Tom McClaren (Nicholas Lea). A group of six, headed by Peter Garrett agrees to climb K2 and find the trapped hikers. While they get the help from one of the nurses, two strange Australian climbers, and the cousin of one of the men who died on the mountain, they also gain the help of expert climber Montgomery Wick (Scott Glen) who holds a grudge against Vaughn. The movie then turns into a race against the clock as the six climbers attempt to reach the three trapped climbers before they all die of pulmonary edema.
Bill Paxton and Scott Glen are Enjoyable
There are plenty of things wrong with this movie… But Glen and Paxton’s performances are not one of them. Both of which put forth some damn good performances, almost mesmerizing at a time. It is also good to see Paxton in a rarely seen villainous role. Usually the lax talking Paxton come across as exceptionally creepy in his evil role as he plays an egocentric climber who will do anything to keep himself alive. Glen also puts forth a great performance as Montgomery Wick. While at times it does appear that the guy has the answer to all problems in the world, you still do feel the pain that this guy goes through and can understand is anger towards Vaughn near the end of the movie. Two strong performances from two very strong actors.
For a movie that is about an ascent on K2 and the later rescue mission… This movie feels rather boring. In what should be a grandiose spectacle and a hunt for life turns into a snooze fest as you watch idiots get themselves killed on a mountain for two hours and on the stupidity point, we will get to that shortly. How does this happen? How can you make a movie that should feel larger than life be so boring? I think a lot of it is chalked up to the acting as well as the directing. None of the shots feel big, none of the shots feel like there is anything at stake. They mostly look like they are walking through a snowy field then climbing K2. Let’s also add that none of the actors are acting like they are walking through the death zone. These people should be fatigued, they should not be thinking straight, they should be barely able to breathe and talk let alone make complete and logical sentences. I won’t blame the actors too much for this, but I will blame the director Martin Campbell for not having the clout to accurately portray the hardships that a climb like that can do on a body.
The Laws of Logic Will Find New and Creative Ways to Get Broken
Oh god… I’m not sure if this is bad writing or these people are too stupid to survive… But these people had to try to get themselves killed in this movie. They had to try hard. If this were to happen in real life, this would be considered one of the biggest blunders in mountain climbing history. First off, let’s talk about the amount of meticulous planning that goes into mountain climbing. You need to be patient and wait for a solid opportunity to reach the summit. In the beginning, Vaughn’s team was warned that just gallivanting up the mountain may end badly for them. They go anyways. They get a call from base camp while climbing saying that there is a guaranteed storm coming and Vaughn talks them into to keep on going. No mountain climber is foolish enough to just run up a mountain into the death zone while in the middle of a storm. People have been caught in freak storms, yes. But, what did you think was going to happen?
Now that we have three people trapped in a chasm waiting for death, let’s talk about the six people sent up the mountain to save them. Instead of gathering a group of your best climbers to go to find them, also a medic incase someone would need medical attention. You choose to gather a group of volunteers. Fine, this does feel like a suicide mission, okay. Now we go into the fact that you bring nitroglycerin in huge quantities to possibly blow a hole in the ice. Now granted, the nitro is played up a bit in this movie. But still, this is a highly volatile substance and you are just lugging it up a mountain side where it can slosh about and potentially kill the rescue team (which it does). You couldn’t bring the much less volatile and much more reliable Semtex? Hell they even say that in the movie that they have it and yet they don’t take it because it isn’t as explosive as nitro. So what? This portion that they give them is enough to put a crater in the earth about the size of a baseball field. You are telling me they couldn’t use anything else less volatile than nitro?! Now let’s talk about the climb. They send six climbers to hunt for these people in three groups of two, a strong climber and a weak climber. They send them up different paths… Okay why? The explanation in the movie doesn’t make sense. A slow climber will only weaken the chances for rescue, wouldn’t you rather have three strong climbers going one path then three groups of two that are being hampered by poor climbing teams?
And out of the nine on the mountain only three come back. Let me spell this out for you, out of the three trapped in the crevasse two of the three die, out of the rescue team of six, four of them die. In other words this rescue mission was entirely pointless. You managed to save one person and lose four people. Everything about this ascent and rescue mission has debacle written all over it. I can only imagine the media bonanza that follows a blunder this horrific.
This movie is terrible. While some of the acting is good, it suffers from being a two hour snore fest that brings little new to the table. It is poorly directed, feels boring, not well shot, and the logic that is used in this film is so horrific that you will slap your head with the utter stupidity. Overall, this spectacle is best left forgotten.
Final Score 1/5
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