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|February 16, 2001||
Hell freezes over
Been there. Seen that.
That aptly sums up Martin Campbell's Vertical Limit.
Man versus Nature. Wonder where we've heard that before?
For starters Volcano, Twister, The Perfect Storm, Dante's Peak...
Vertical Limit is another addition to the action adventure genre. Only this time around the natural elements comprise icy mountain slopes.
Hell literally freezes over on the legendary slopes of the K2 peak in the Himalayas, where the movie is set. Danger lurks all around as deceptively beautiful ridges drop off into violently hideous gorges. And every step means treading on very, very, thin ice.
Although the backdrop does make for impressive viewing, it loses most of its charm after a cursory glance. In fact, with a cast of mostly B-list stars, the picturesque scenery is all that's left to carry an otherwise hollow film.
Peter Garrett (played by Chris O'Donnell who's finally grown out of Robin's boots and the costume) plays a one-time mountain climber turned National Geographic photographer forced to slip into his climbing boots once more to save younger sibling Annie (Robin Tunney).
Things begin to heat up (if such a phenomenon is possible at sub-zero temperatures) when Annie and a small team of climbers, including resident pain-in-the-neck Elliot Vaughn (Bill Paxton), trek up the mountain to promote the maiden flight of a new airline.
Throwing caution to the chilly winds, Vaughn pushes the group forward. Annie, who wants to make it to the top to honour the memory of her father (he dies earlier in a mountaineering mishap), soon finds herself up to her ears in snow, as she awaits her end.
Quite predictably, brother dear can't possibly let this happen. So, he dons his (warm) hero cape and embarks on the rescue mission with a motley of characters that range from a toeless Buddhist Sherpa (Scott Glenn) to nudist sunbathers.
Perilous jumps from a helicopter and leaps from one mountain to another follow in quick succession. But after you've seen them once, you've seen them all. The chills and thrills are a dime a dozen, but no shivers run down your spine. Rather, you stifle a yawn, and watch on.
As the air gets thinner, the plot thickens. Short-tempered vials of nitroglycerin explode and desperate climbers hang from the side of the mountain by the point of their pickaxes, smothering the film in an avalanche of trite movie clichés.
I could enter my philosophical mode and say that metaphorically speaking, the movie depicted how every action and deed in real day-to-day living could snowball into something completely different.
Or how perspectives change when we "play God". But somehow, I don't think director Martin Campbell was hinting at anything even remotely deep, except may be the snow level.
However, the movie did leave an impact on me. I can confidently say that the movie considerably diminished the thrill I associated with mountain climbing. I mean, trudging through the snow, with very little food or water, and barely enough air to breathe in, isn't my idea of a good time.
If you fancy this sort of thing, then I guess frostbite does it for you!
The death-defying settings balance out Vertical Limit's lack of anything original, thus firmly placing the movie in the middle-ground of cinematic limbo: It's not a must-see action movie, but anyone looking for a rugged O'Donnell or light entertainment would find it viewable.
Don't forget your woolens though!
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