Vertical Limit (2000)
New heights are explored in the mountain climbing expedition that is Vertical Limit. A group of climbers must perform a rescue mission on the second highest mountain in the world or risk losing the lives of their friends and loved ones. With a set-up like this you would assume it would have a lot of great action. Well, yes and no.
Limit stars Bill Paxton (talented but has poor film choices) as the usual corporate villain, Chris O’Donnell (untalented with poor choices) as the tortured rock climbing hero, and Robin Tunney as the overly ambitious climbing sister to O’Donnell. This isn’t all the subplots though — oh no! We get a pair of wise cracking pot head brothers, a religious Pakistani serviceman, a military base, and a grizzled loner that everyone thinks is crazy until we finally realize he’s the best mountain man of them all. By the time it takes to establish all of these subplots, plus others I’ve failed to mention, we haven’t even gotten to the damn mountain yet. Rule #1 of a mountain climbing movie: Get on the bloody mountain within an hour of the movie starting!
The plot is overly cornball and excessively redundant. By the time you actually see the loner’s long lost wife frozen in a wall of ice and looking like a figurine from the Mattel Barbie catalog you will know the ends this film will go.
The experts of rock climbing are all young and seemingly frat house rejects. Why in every film must the experts in any field of scientific research be frat house party animals? How about some realism there and make them all middle aged balding white males. Well… I guess that would be less of a draw.
Director Martin Campbell (GoldenEye) has a great knack for establishing tight thrills and strong suspense. Campbell is clearly the strong point of this picture. When the action is running it’s plumb with excitement and great visceral visuals of the scenery. The only problem is that the action scenes are separated by long stretches of characters coughing or wheezing and terribly cheesy dialogue. If the story is technically built around the action sequences why do we have to devote so much time to it then? It’s a waste of Campbell, a true action talent.
Limit is rigid with expendable cut-outs designed to be its people. The characters are shoe-string and so is the plot but the action, when allowed to actually happen, is first rate. However, I do exclude a series of scenes where Tunney and Paxton are trapped in an ice cave that resembles more of your grocer’s freezer than a Himalayan peek. The 12 year-old behind me kicking my seat figured it all out good enough. I think that says enough.
Nate’s Grade: C-