Vertical Limit

Whenever I've done any kind of mountaineering or similar activity, the reason I put my life in danger was a wanton disregard for it. That's the lesson illustrated in Vertical Limit, minus the trial by fire.

The film is extremely well-crafted and moves at a brisk pace. A wealthy businessman, Elliot Vaughn (Bill Paxton), decides to summit K2 (Mount Godwin-Austen), the second highest peak in the world as part of an advertisement campaign. He refuses to back off under adverse conditions and puts his team, consisting of Annie Garrett (Robin Tunney), Tom McLaren (Nicholas Lea, who plays Alex Krycek in The X Files), and a Red Shirt, in danger. Soon, they're trapped on a crevasse ledge and are running out of oxygen.

Peter Garrett (Chris O'Donnell), Annie's brother, who remains at the last base camp, decides to assemble a team of rescuers to bring them back. These include Kareem Nazir (Siddig El Fadil, who plays Julian Bashir on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) and Montgomery Wick (Scott Glenn) who lost his wife while she was guiding Vaughn's previous attempt to ascend K2.

The actors do a fine job, but this film isn't about the acting. There are enough novel action sequences (including the use of nitroglycerin to explosive effect) and plot twists (the real villain here isn't mother nature). Interestingly, the film briefly touches upon the nature of the India-Pakistan conflict (this is the kind of the land the armies are currently defending).

While I never really came close to the situations depicted in Vertical Limit, attempting to go past the Mt. Everest base camp (5200 metres/17160 feet) at dusk without our guide and then returning to our vehicle, cross sheets of ice in pitch darkness (parked several miles away) in the middle of winter, was an exercise in exuberant stupidity. Likewise for glissading down Mt. Shasta under white-out conditions or standing on a ledge that was mostly snow at Dewey Point in Yosemite. In our daily life, things can go horribly wrong in an instant. Putting yourself in a precarious situation at the whim of nature doesn't help matters much, but that's precisely why it's fun.

If you can relate to the idea of putting your life in danger just for the thrill of it, I highly recommend checking out Vertical Limit, on a big screen with a great sound system if possible.

Movie ramblings || Ram Samudrala ||