Vertical Limit (2000) – movie review

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Movie Review by Nigel A. Messenger

Starring: Chris O’Donnell, Robin Tunney, Bill Paxton, Nicholas Lea

Director: Martin Campbell

Shot on location in New Zealand, you can tell because of the high number of New Zealanders in the supporting cast, VERTICAL LIMIT is a spectacular adventure movie with equally spectacular snowy mountain scenery as New Zealand doubles for K2, the second highest mountain in the world..

After the tragic death of their father in a climbing accident, Peter Garrett (Chris O’Donnell) and his sister Annie Garrett (Robin Tunney) go their separate ways, Annie blaming her brother for their father’s death. Their paths cross again when wealthy businessman Elliot Vaughn (Bill Paxton) organises a team to climb K2 as a publicity stunt to launch his new airline. Ignoring expert advice the team of climbers get caught in a storm killing most of them but leaving Annie, Elliot Vaughn and the team guide Tom McLaren (Nicholas Lea) trapped near the summit.

Peter organises a dangerous rescue mission and proceeds to climb with a handful of volunteers to rescue the survivors, while carrying unstable canisters of nitro-glycerine, the only explosive available, which will be needed to free trapped climbers. Battling against time, the elements, the unstable explosive and the threat of the survivors dying of adema, the scene is set for a nailbiting adventure with plenty of potential for disasters.

Fortunately the film itself is not a disaster as all cast turn in good performances and there are some tense moments guessing which characters will get killed off.

There are some clichés leaping out of the screen though as Scott Glenn gives an identikit warning speech about the weather, just like Robert Shaw gave a ‘danger, danger’ speech in Jaws, and many of the characters seem to fit into stereotyped roles. Oh well at least they do it convincingly!

There are also going to be some obvious parallels drawn with Sylvester Stallone’s CLIFFHANGER, although CLIFFHANGER relies more on the characters trying to kill each other, and VERTICAL LIMIT is more about the natural elements, and the nitro-glycerine doing the job.

It’s also worth noting that the casting director must be fan of cult television series and films, as VERTICAL LIMIT stars Nicholas Lea (X-FILES), Alexander Siddiq (STAR TREK DS9), the gorgeous Izabella Scorupco from James Bond’s GOLDENEYE, main star Chris O’Donnell was Robin in BATMAN AND ROBIN, and even Robin Tunney was in supernatural blockbuster’s END OF DAYS, although I guess that one is stretching it a bit.

VERTICAL LIMIT might be a little obvious and clichéd in places but if has plenty of tense moments and is well made so it is definitely recommended.

4 out of 6 stars