Vertical Limit is an exciting, mostly actioned packed, and suspense-filled
adventure, concerning the rescue of climbers trapped near the top of K2,
the world's second highest peak. If that were all (and it would be enough)
I could close this review right now with a simple recommendation to go
see it. But alas, this is a Hollywood movie and there is more. One of the
climbers is a young woman estranged from her brother, who just happens
to be nearby at the time. It is he who organises a rescue in the face of
the accepted wisdom that they are doomed and cannot be saved. So straight
away the film is weighed down with inter-personal drama, and there is more
between other characters of the film, but none of it is developed beyond
anything but a superficial level, so that it is not interesting and
the film would have been better off without it. Indeed, some of the "inter-personals"
are so briefly drawn that one suspects that much more was left on the cutting
room floor. By and large, these do not add to the film but instead act
as a drag on the action.
The other fault with this film is the plot, some of which is frankly
ridiculous. Given that this is, at the end of day, a simple adventure,
it would be unnecessary to catalogue the absurdities and holes in the story,
but I must mention the nitro: Because the climbers are trapped beneath
ice, the rescuers need to blast the ice away to get to them. Now, conveniently,
your friendly Pakistani army officer is camped nearby, and just happens
to have several canisters of highly volatile nitro-glycerine to hand which
he is prepared to give them. It seems inconceivable that the army would
not have some more suitable and less volatile explosives available, but
there it is -- the rescuers must set off up the mountain carrying canisters
of nitro which threaten to destroy them at every step. Now this may seem
familiar from the classic French film, The Wages of Fear, in which it was
central to the plot, and without which there would have been no story.
But in Vertical Limit, there is already ample suspense in the climbing
itself, and the additional threat of loud bangs was really unnecessary.
However, let me not put anyone off. Vertical Limit is indeed tautly
suspensful, as well as featuring superb scenery, and you will, as I did,
leave the theatre feeling you've had your money's worth.