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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 27.91%
Average: 0%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 2.33%

3 reviews, 25 user ratings

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Touching the Void
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Jay Seaver

"The purpose of this movie is to make it very clear that we aren't ths tough"
5 stars

This is a movie about crazy people. The type of people who see a cliff face no-one has ever climbed, so high that the air thins and the temperature drops well below zero - let's make this very clear, these are not the environments in which human beings have evolved to thrive - and say, golly, this looks like fun.

To compound this, the two young English mountain climbers in this movie then decide to climb this mountain in the Andes as they would an Alp, in one push, rather than in stages that allow for resupply. This, it strikes me, is an incredibly stupid thing to do, and if something goes wrong, well, you've kind of got it coming.

Now, there wouldn't be a movie if something didn't go wrong. Indeed, what happens as they descend the mountain is the very reason the phrase "things went horribly wrong" exists. And then, things got worse.

The outcome of this adventure is never seriously in doubt. Climbers Joe Simpson and Simon Yates are both interviewed in the talking-head segments, so they obviously survive their ordeals - although without full body shots, it's still quite possible that they were maimed, somehow; I half expected the movie to end with a pull-back revealing amputated limbs (this doesn't happen). The purpose of this movie is not to keep the audience in suspense; it is to make it very clear to each and every member of the audience that we aren't nearly as tough as these guys. That, in similar situations, we would give up, fail, act indecisively, or otherwise behave in a manner that would conclude with our frozen corpses not being found for decades. Happily, Joe and Simon don't rub our faces in it. They are very matter of fact in their recollections. It's not just that they're telling the story nearly twenty years after it happened in a very English, self-effacing manner. Throughout the movie, terms like "bravery" and "courage" are never used. Words like "stubborn" are used instead, and not as euphemisms. They're very pragmatic: If you find yourself grievously injured halfway up a mountain with no rope, food, or water, getting to the bottom isn't brave; it's just something very difficult that you have to do.

Between the talking-heads sequences are re-enactments, which are well-done and nicely photographed. Unlike an IMAX film, these scenes aren't primarily meant to inspire awe in the terrible beauty of the mountains. There is that, especially when we're looking at the inside of a crevasse, but most of it is straightforward illustration of what Joe and Simon are telling us. It's the little "how we do it" details that would be tedious to explain but simple to show.

Indeed, this is a very humanistic movie. Director Kevin Macdonald doesn't personify nature as others might, portraying it as a force actively seeking to kill people stupid enough to defy it. It's just nature and doesn't feel a thing. Similarly, it's a nice change of pace to have Joe talk about how it did didn't occur to him to pray during his ordeal, and that he didn't believe in an afterlife. He got through it not because he had faith God would provide the means, but because he was a tough, resourceful human being who wanted to keep living.

And, ultimately, that's what's impressive about the movie - that these guys weren't superhuman, or fortunate. They were just capable, which is in and of itself impressive.

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originally posted: 06/03/04 03:54:17
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Palm Springs Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Palm Springs Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

2/15/15 john fucking shit 1 stars
12/15/09 brian Ow. 4 stars
2/26/08 pkr 'And then he cut the rope." I am speechless. 5 stars
12/06/05 Sally Colbert Absolutely engrossing 5 stars
8/03/05 ALDO Makes you feel like a real wimpy piece of shit 5 stars
7/16/05 HL Reality at Its Finest...Forget Hollywood BS! 5 stars
7/05/05 Dan Really a great movie, albeit, you get angry at people for doing this to themselves. 5 stars
7/02/05 pin Lousy feature (K2) - Great Doc. Simple & Powerful. 5 stars
6/23/05 malcolm i have NOTHING to complain about. may have been better as a feature. maybe not. 4 stars
11/23/04 R.W. Welch A real cliff-hanger with an intriguing moral dilemna at its root. 4 stars
11/22/04 psycho black dwarf Few cliches apply, most artifice stripped away=Touching the Void 4 stars
9/08/04 Huge Harold Very powerful, very cold. Stunning 5 stars
8/07/04 howdinski This is a real eye opener of a film. makes you glad to be alive and warm 5 stars
6/20/04 john bale This Centuries White Hell of Pitz Palu - brilliant reconstruction of gutsy survival. 5 stars
6/17/04 andy g. A powerful movie! 4 stars
6/03/04 Elizabeth Simply amazing story, often told with supreme understatement by Simon Yates & Joe Simpson. 5 stars
5/14/04 Marilyn Couture Everyone should see this! 5 stars
3/25/04 Heather Purplethorne Stunningly and excruciatingly poignant. See it! 5 stars
3/09/04 Dspell13 This is the best mountaineering film ever. 5 stars
3/06/04 Bingo was his name-o Absolutely unbelievable. More gripping than any action movie. 5 stars
2/23/04 Eric S. Even though I have read the book twice, I still leaned forward in my seat with anticipation 5 stars
2/19/04 Graham Among a lot of other good things, it's the scariest movie of the year. 5 stars
1/24/04 Todd Finally!!!! Someone actually got mountain climbing right for once. Amazing story 5 stars
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  23-Jan-2004 (R)
  DVD: 15-Jun-2004


  24-Jun-2004 (M)

Directed by
  Kevin Macdonald

Written by

  Joe Simpson
  Nicholas Aaron

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