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Overall Rating

Awesome: 7.81%
Worth A Look: 11.72%
Average: 28.13%
Pretty Bad39.06%
Total Crap: 13.28%

9 reviews, 74 user ratings

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Vertical Limit
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by Erik Childress

"Mountain Climbers, Stupid? In This Movie, Yes!"
2 stars

How stupid are mountain climbers? They strap on a heavy pack. Travel to places with weather that Chicago wouldn't feel in the Ice Age. Go traversing through snow and ice up unstable peaks thousands and thousands of feet towards the sky where the air gets so thin that you're liable to drown in your own bodily fluids. Why? Why? Why would people do this? For the adrenaline I guess. The old cliché of feeling closer to God? Maybe. And you do need a pretty good understanding of what you're doing; otherwise you risk not only your life, but also the life of your fellow climbers. Which is why I cannot understand for the life of me why every climber in Vertical Limit is portrayed as a complete idiot.

Comparisons to Cliffhanger are inevitable, but on the off chance the audience has memory lapse, Vertical Limit opens with nearly the exact same situation. In all fairness, it's a very cool scene, despite how easy it is to spot the bluescreen images in some shots. Still, a great opening that grabs our attention. Naturally, tragedy plus time equals healing so flash forward a few years where disgraced climber Peter Garrett (Chris O'Donnell) now shoots pictures for National Geographic. Lucky for him, he just happens to be on the same mountain where his Sports Illustrated-cover girl sister (for climbing), Annie (Robin Tunney, totally unbelievable as a professional climber) is about ready to lead a PR expedition.

Who's upset with who is pretty fuzzy, much like billionaire Elliot Vaughn (Bill Paxton, getting back to his ol' dirty bastard roots), looking to scale the K2 to reach the top in time for the maiden flight of his new airline to fly over top. He's assembled the worlds best climbers including Annie and 2-time Everest champion Tom McLaren (Nicholas Lea) to meet a practically unreachable deadline. When ego overcomes common sense, the three of them become the only survivors of an avalanche, entrapped in a vast crevice with a limited amount of supplies. Rescue mission time!

Actually not yet, because the crack team has to be assembled. Never mind that they only have an estimated 36 hours to reach the entombed, but these people have stories to tell. Decisions, decisions, and more decisions about who's up for the mission until we finally assemble the six-pack. Joining brother Peter are Skip Taylor (Robert Taylor) and hottie co-climber Monique Aubertine (Izabella Scorupco, looking eerily like Dina Meyer), brothers Malcolm & Cyril Bench (Ben Mendelsohn & Steve Le Marquand), who represent the comic relief if you can understand what the hell they're saying and Kareem Nazir (Alexander Siddig) whose own brother died in the avalanche. So, they're off to the mountain!

Oh wait, they have to make a pit stop first. With all the time they've been stalling so far, they need one of the world's fastest climbers, the reclusive hermit-like Montgomery Wick (Scott Glenn). Never mind that he's older than anyone there and has a personal grudge against Vaughn, but he also bumps Skip off the team. Back to the minors with him because God knows you don't need all the help you can get. Everyone beginning to get the picture here?

So, now it's off to the mountain (ABOUT AN HOUR INTO THE MOVIE!!!) Keeping with tradition that each hour of this film must begin with a great action sequence, director Martin Campbell doesn't disappoint. Proving to jump off an unstable helicopter onto a little patch of mountain amounts to some over-the-top excitement, as each climber must overcome the elements (and that helicopter blade!). But once they're on and safe, it's time to climb, climb, and climb. How then do you keep your audience enthralled and up the tension? Oh yeah, they're carrying large canisters of nitroglycerine.

Why? Why? Why would they do this, you ask? Well they have to break through the layers of rock to save the victims. But nitro? Shouldn't experienced climbers be prepared for such contingencies without having to rely on unstable explosives? Never mind. But nitro? They didn't get it from the same place Doc Brown got his plutonium, so good thing there's a Pakistani Army camp situated nearby and a friendly bunch of chaps at that. They show us how hair-trigger volatile the Hi-C Ecto Cooler is, but apparently were absent the day they taught how to keep the nitro out of the warm sun. And this country is testing nuclear weapons now?

Vertical Limit makes the script to Cliffhanger look like a Shakespearean play translated by David Mamet. Screen credit goes to writers Terry Hayes and Robert King. Hayes is responsible for the final two entries in the Mad Max series as well as solid thrillers like Dead Calm and Payback. King, on the other hand, has a resume that lists the Geena Davis megabomb Cutthroat Island & disappointment Speechless as well as the Don "The Dragon" Wilson straight-to-video actioner Bloodfist. With a film that occasionally has some thrilling action sequences (aided by a competent action director, Campbell "The Mask of Zorro", "Goldeneye") sewn together with some of the lamest plot points and even lamer dialogue in recent memory, you can place the blame on the writer you see fit. (Hint: King also gets exclusive story credit).

126 minutes is around the average for any big-budget action extravaganza, but here feels overly long thanks to all the talking that goes on. It's like a group of Chatty Kathy dolls came to life and forgot to strap on a watch. For a plot device that relies on the clock, never once do the characters discuss how much time they have to reach the damned nor is it conveniently plastered on the screen (i.e. "4 hours left", "30 minutes to deadline") to keep the suspense up. No, suspense is apparently sustained by keeping the mountaineering info to a mum and making every character a moron. They slip. They fall. They tumble. HOLD ON TO THAT NITRO!!! I don't remember seeing much of that in the IMAX Everest documentary, one that grabs a hold of your lungs and doesn't let go. More than I can say about Vertical Limit.

This is a film that requires suspension of disbelief for people who don't know what that means. I like seeing unaware characters in silent scenes suddenly getting blown away before our very eyes, something that happens about a half dozen times here. Dumb action is all great and fine. Just plain dumb is another. Like characters worrying about running out of water in a giant SNOW cave. If there's cause for their concern, how about clueing us into why? How about the convenient finding of a frozen mannequin posing as a dead wife? Even the final shot is a laughable memorial to the characters that died on the mountain, as if we cared enough about them in the first place. Hopefully the Andes Mountain survivors will find the people responsible and eat them.

Vertical Limit is like the screenplay written by the "Abby Normal" brain from Young Frankenstein. Like the potential after-effects of trying to reach the top of the Tower of Babel, it's asphyxia to your brain. It makes Tom Cruise's impromptu climb at the beginning of Mission Impossible 2 look like a recruiting film. But if you're as dumb as any of the scalars in this film, I recommend even avoiding the rock-climbing walls at your local Gameworks or amusement park. Personally I say if you want the experience of mountain climbing without actually experiencing it, go ride a rollercoaster in Denver. But if you want to see Vertical Limit, sure there's some adrenaline involved but you'll leave with a few less brain cells.

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originally posted: 12/06/00 18:50:40
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User Comments

3/25/13 E.C.D. Takes way too long to get going. This is simple, plain, and needed to be 20 minutes shorter 3 stars
8/30/09 CTT Meh 3 stars
11/15/05 Quigley this is one heckuva movie, all right. action was really good, but acting wasn't up to snuff 4 stars
8/18/05 ES It's funny when the sun hits the nitro and it explodes = invest in radios that work dumbass 2 stars
4/02/05 Alice Colwell boring 2 stars
1/21/05 DM Horrible script somewhat salvaged by exciting action scenes 3 stars
11/23/04 D-Unit It blows the big one!!! 1 stars
9/24/04 Al Guy Robin Tunney is cute. The movie is not. 3 stars
9/16/04 Ryuji Oh dear. Crap story, crap effects. To top it off, the acting is more wooden than Pinochio. 1 stars
5/12/04 Gavin Loved it. Was one hell of a ride! Check it out. 5 stars
3/13/04 john bale White Hell meets Wages of Fear in the ultimate cliff hanger. Stunt man are the stars. 3 stars
3/04/04 timson "Chris O'Donnell, luv ya!". You, Rainbow, are an asshole. 1 stars
1/07/04 The name's Rainbow. Oh common! It has one of the coolest and hottest sidekicks around! Chris O'Donnell, luv ya! 4 stars
10/04/03 Chrys Calling it crap is an insult to feces. 1 stars
7/18/03 Chris I wanted to see this movie but when I did I was very dissappointed. This had potential. 2 stars
9/28/02 HekiliKoa the plot was as predictable as a weather in Greenland: always shitty 2 stars
9/15/02 syrius I have to slap the retards who decided to make this movie 1 stars
6/14/02 Ray Gordon Now you know why Darwin never climbed mountains. 1 stars
5/15/02 Blake The cliffs in this film looked like your were there. 5 stars
3/09/02 KrynnDM ...and I picked *this* over Charlie's Angels?! 2 stars
2/07/02 Lila great movie i love chris o'donnel 5 stars
2/03/02 Andrew Carden See The 1978 Rock Hudson B-Flick Avalance Instead. 1 stars
1/16/02 David A. Scenery and effects were entertaining, more so than the plot 4 stars
12/31/01 Moe Mr. Bean would have been a more believable climber 2 stars
12/23/01 Crunchyfrog Opening sequence is the funniest piece of film ever! 5 stars
11/27/01 KMG This movie is one nut-filled turd 1 stars
11/21/01 Matthew bartley Good stunts.Average addition to the disaster genre 3 stars
9/19/01 Karyn Monty Python movies are more believable then these special effects. 2 stars
8/29/01 Amy All "downhill" after the first three minutes 2 stars
8/12/01 tnt pathetically stupid in every way possible!!!! Avoid at all cost! 1 stars
7/10/01 Anne Predictable from the first five minutes. The scenery didn't make up for the retread plot. 2 stars
7/02/01 The Bomb 69 fun movie, could see what was happening a mile away but i was still entertained 4 stars
6/25/01 Matt Dorsey Blue screen effects. Predictable. Dubious nitro explosions. Somewhat entertaining. 3 stars
6/21/01 Bud OK rental with good special effects. No stirring performances. 3 stars
6/20/01 Melody Leu This movie was really awesome. Izabelle Scorupco and Chris Odonell were great and the other 5 stars
6/10/01 r davis Awful! Chinese water torture is preferable. 1 stars
6/05/01 Monday Morning Unbelievable but fabulous. Hell, just enjoy it! 5 stars
5/28/01 Wrob Stunning effects and highly unplausable action wrapped in a paper-thin plot. Typical. 2 stars
5/14/01 Destruction Worker On par with Cliffhanger 5 stars
5/10/01 *~Danielle*Ophelia~* (formerly KyLe*BrOfLoVsKi) Cliche, cliche, and...oh, would ya looky here? ANOTHER cliche!! 2 stars
4/05/01 Hawkeye Alexander Siddig was good in his role, as were others, but the plot couldn't be saved. 3 stars
2/28/01 Rahul Gupta good action, who cares about the story as most of them similar anyway 4 stars
1/29/01 Nic It really left me on the edge of my seat. Not many movies do that for me. 4 stars
1/22/01 Emily Leigh itd the best so go cheak it out ! 5 stars
1/20/01 Ground Zero this was waay crappier than Cliffhanger 2 stars
1/17/01 Jes VERY unrealistic... 3 stars
1/13/01 Avenger Girl Sure there are some dumb things in the movie, as in most movies. OK action flick. 4 stars
1/12/01 Lord Raymos Really dumb plot, but nice action sequences. 2 stars
1/11/01 Boy In The Designer Bubble My cousin dragged me to this movie. I kicked the shit out of him when we got home. 1 stars
1/06/01 Viking I liked the snow leopards 3 stars
12/27/00 Mamjama LOL..sorry this flick sucked...but what's an Australian Sterotype???? 2 stars
12/25/00 matthew smith good action set pieces, pity about the script and lacks charisma 3 stars
12/23/00 MadBunny Nitro freezes (stable), the whole sunlight shit ignores ambient temperatures...helooo.. 1 stars
12/22/00 Stipey Dude, Where's My Carcass? 2 stars
12/21/00 Schell 6 climbers go on a rescue mission at 8,000m without oxygen gas, parkas or acclimitization. 2 stars
12/20/00 malcolm pretty good, but O'Donnell's character was SUPER selfish 3 stars
12/18/00 kayti denham Lame action and offensive stereotyping of Australians 1 stars
12/15/00 Kevin D. My high hopes for this movie were lost in a cave. 1 stars
12/14/00 Diehard I thought it was good, way better than expected. 4 stars
12/13/00 Mr. X Comparisons to "Cliffhanger" and "Everest" were inevitable. Just plain silly. 2 stars
12/12/00 PhilmPhreak Dumb, dumb, dumb, good stunts, dumb, dumb 1 stars
12/12/00 Jack Daniels OK action movie 3 stars
12/12/00 Ground Zero What the hell is this? Cliffhanger 2? 2 stars
12/11/00 frankko if there had been no dialogue, the movie would have been a lot better. 3 stars
12/11/00 Angus moorehead A simple film which scales the height in the latest extreme-wear fashion. 2 stars
12/11/00 Doctor Collosus Wow!!! Adrenalin RUSH! First really exviting movie in years. 5 stars
12/10/00 FrayLo Don't look for a great plot, this one was all about entertainment... 3 stars
12/10/00 Sexton Hardcastle Bah! Poop! 1 stars
12/10/00 Sam S. Far above any action movie I've seen in a long time. 5 stars
12/10/00 Kohawk If you're there for eye candy and not much substance it's ok. Low end just average 3 stars
12/10/00 Brandon - The Man Despite moments of great suspense, it had bad acting, lame story, ridiculous situations. 2 stars
12/07/00 Jennifer Verticell Good movie if you like action. 4 stars
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  08-Dec-2000 (PG-13)


  21-Dec-2000 (M)

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