Retro Review: Vertical Limit

Man, mountain, climbing, snow and explosions are the main elements of the new action thriller “Vertical Limit” from “Goldeneye” director Martin Campbell.

Chris O’Donnell leads an ensemble cast as he stars as Peter Garrett, a reluctant mountain climber who is broken up after his father’s death.

Garrett learns that his sister, Annie (Robin Tunney), is leading a mountain climbing expedition to the top of the legendary K2. His sister’s financier (Bill Paxton) is a millionaire who hopes to use the ascent as a publicity stunt for launching his new airline.

Garrett has little time to converse with his sister before she is off on the expedition. As Garrett gathers supplies he needs he hears about the torrential storms swarming on K2. He is petrified for his sister’s life and does all he can to find out how the expedition is going.

Meanwhile on the mountain, Annie makes a critical error and sends her team deep into a vertical snow cave. Three of her team survives as they are buried alive by tons of snow.

Garrett panics as word spreads across base camp that the team is lost or dead. He basically begs people at base camp to mount a rescue party. After a couple melodramatic moments, Garrett assembles a rather motley crew for the rescue venture. To cut time and hopefully clear the snow covering his sister, Garrett acquires 4 canisters of nitroglycerine from the Indian military.

What secrets are the rescuers hiding? Who is this mysterious mountain mystic? Who will live and who will die?

As the film introduces the climbing expedition a helicopter sweeps across a tent-city. The way the camera moves and the whole scene is set-up I felt it was such a clone of the typical “Renny Harlin” action film entrance.

The film moves into introducing way to many characters who will be staged in a variety of certain sections of the adventure. What I did like was how the film slowly uncovered the key elements to the plot.

As soon as O’Donnell began climbing the film shifted gears and was intense. I loved the disaster elements and how intense of a film it was if you could forget how ludicrous some of the set-up action sequences actually are.

The acting reminded me a lot of those direct to video releases where you know that the film you rented was only supposed to be seen on video. You know “B-list” acting. I just wish the film would have allowed for acting and depth to the plot. This film was in desperate need of re-writes.

Was it really necessary for every character to shed a tear? And why was there that predictable Scott Glenn subplot? Also can anyone explain the nitro in the sun thing?

I have always had a problem with Chris O’Donnell and Robin Tunney as actors. In everything they have done I always found them the weak link in plots, situations and key acting scenes.

In this film I equally blame them and the material for having no impact in crucial situations. I mean the slow moments have no impact and hardly drive the story.

This is the kind of film where it’s the story that drives the film and we really need those crucial moments to care for these siblings.

As for the suspense it is tied directly into the action sequences and not the plot. Couldn’t the screenwriters have come up with some shocking plot elements to drive the suspense. I mean this whole adventure is predictable.

(2.5 out of 5)

So Says the Soothsayer.

Written: December 12, 2000

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