Vertical Limit


Directed by: Martin Campbell
Written by:Robert King, Terry Hayes
Starring: Chris O’Donnell, Bill Paxton, Robin Tunney, Scott Glenn, Temuera Morrison, Ben Mendelsohn
Released: December 21, 2000
Grade: B

Peter (O’Donnell) and Annie (Tunney) are brother and sister and adventurous rock-climbers.  That is until an accident results in the death of their father.  Both Peter and Annie take the tragedy hard and over time find themselves drifting away from each other.

Three years pass and chance brings them together.  Peter is photographer for a National Geographic piece in Pakistan and when a crew member is injured, they are forced to travel by helicopter to a mountain climbing community for medical assistance.  It is there he finds Annie, preparing to scale K-2 (the world’s second highest mountain) with business man Elliot Vaughn (Paxton) and guide Tom McLaren (Nicholas Lea).

All three are climbing for different reasons.  Tom is being paid $1,000,000 for the expedition.  Elliot is after publicity having just started a new airline and wants to be on top of the mountain when the first plane passes overhead.  Annie wants to do it for her father who knows he would be proud of her conquering one of man’s greatest challenges.

Things go horribly wrong when bad weather and a resulting avalanche trap them in a deep underground cavern at 26,000 feet (just over 2,000 feet from the summit).  At that height, the human body cannot last for long and projections give them just 36 hours to live.  And so, a team of six (including Peter), against all odds, ascend K-2 in a daring speed ascent rescue mission...

You don’t take films like Vertical Limit seriously - just kick back and enjoy the ride.  Sure there was plenty of bad dialogue and impossible escapes but I seemed to find myself caught up in the suspense.  Performances were admirable all things considered but Scott Glenn is always worth watching on screen and was in my opinion, the standout.

Excruciatingly frustrating was some of the direction from New Zealand director Martin Campbell (Goldeneye, The Mask Of Zorro).  On more than one instance, we’d see cast members in life-threatening situations but we’d never seem escape.  Next time we see the character, all is well.  Examples included the opening sequence with Peter and Annie rock-climbing and the final scene where Annie is pulled from the crevice.

Colombia Pictures has been promoting this film for months but early box-office projections from the United States suggest the film isn’t performing as expected.  Sure it may be fun, but the public are tiring of repetitious action.  It’s time to change the script.