Vertical Limit

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The ViewAuckland Review

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Review byMatthew Turner15/01/2001

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 124 mins

Cliché-ridden, derivative no-brainer of an action-fest that nonetheless manages to pull off some spectacular mountain-top sequences.

Chris O’Donnell plays Peter Garrett, an ex-mountaineer, estranged from his hotshot mountaineer sister Annie (Robin Tunney) after a climbing accident a year previously, in which Peter was forced to cut their father loose, sending him plunging to his death. However, when a storm traps Annie, an experienced climber (Nicholas Lea – Krychek from ‘The X-Files’) and sleazy Texas millionaire Elliot Vaughn in a cave high up on K2, Peter assembles a group of six volunteers and mounts a perilous rescue mission. Oh, and just in case the climb itself wasn’t dangerous enough, they bring along some nitroglycerine, because you just never know when it might come in handy.

The plot, then, is pure action-movie cheese, with obvious nods to several other movies, some obvious, such as ‘Cliffhanger’ (the opening ‘trauma’ that O’Donnell has to overcome), and some less so, such as French suspense classic ‘The Wages of Fear’ (the nitro). The characters, too, are straight out of The Big Book Of Action Movie Clichés, so much so that you can practically guess what each character is going to say or do at any given moment. Expendable stoner comic relief characters? Check. ‘Evil’ rich millionaire? Check. Mysterious, slightly bonkers ‘wise’ character? Check – Scott Glenn plays ‘legendary’ mountaineer ‘Montgomery Wick’. Initially frosty love interest? Check – Izabella Scorupco (from Goldeneye, also directed by Martin Campbell). All that’s really missing is the loveable mountain-climbing dog!

That said, no-one really goes to these movies for healthy doses of character development, and, fortunately, if there’s one director of recent years that knows a thing or two about action sequences, it’s Campbell (Goldeneye, 1998’s excellent The Mask of Zorro). Unfortunately, if you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve already seen the film’s biggest jaw-dropping moments, although that’s not to say they’re any less impressive in context. Still, Campbell keeps everything moving at a decent pace, ensuring that while you may groan at the script’s clichés (the ‘guess that song’ game that Annie and Peter play is especially irksome), you won’t starve for explosion- or avalanche-related action.

The film looks glorious, too – shot mostly around Mount Cook in New Zealand by cinematographer David Tattersall, with some actual location footage from the base of K2 and seemingly minimal effects-work (nitro explosions, avalanches and ice-caves aside, obviously). To sum up, this is a watchable, if instantly forgettable Saturday night action movie, light on character, heavy on action, with a derivative script – in short, thoroughly deserving of that old reviewing cliché "leave your brain at home and enjoy".

If, however, you want a truly great movie, then save your money and see Traffic twice!

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Content updated: 16/10/2019 18:47

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