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Movie Review

Vertical Limit

MPAA Rating: PG-13-Rating (MPAA) for intense life/death situations and brief strong language

Reviewed by: Debbie James

Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teen to Adult
2 hr. 5 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
Chris O’Donnell and Izabella Scorupco in “Vertical Limit”
Featuring: Bill Paxton, Chris O’Donnell, Izabella Scorupco, Robin Tunney, Scott Glenn
Director: Martin Campbell
Producer: Marcia Nasatir, Lloyd Phillips, Martin Campbell, Robert King
Distributor: Columbia Tristar

This movie’s tagline: “Hold your breath” aptly describes what the viewer does throughout the movie. The climbing teams experience many life-and-death instances, beginning with the opening scene. Although some scenes are predictable and the dramatic scenes lag a bit, the scenes are well-executed overall. The film’s cinematography is beautiful to watch. It’s one of those movies that is definitely better on the big screen. In addition, the cleverly timed winter release allows the viewer to experience the cold with the climbers.

Nicholas Lea in “Vertical Limit”

In “Vertical Limit”, Chris O’Donnell is Peter Garrett, a wildlife photographer for National Geographic and an avid mountain climber. His estranged sister Annie (Robin Tunney) is also a climber, now working as a mountain guide. She is part of a team assembled to climb to the top of K2, the second highest mountain in the world. This team is being assembled by wealthy Texas businessman Elliot Vaughn (Bill Paxton), who has planned this event to honor the first flight of a new airline scheduled to fly overhead as they reach the summit. Tom McLaren (Nicholas Lea), is chosen to accompany them because of his reputation as one of the best climbers in the world.

How can I be and feel forgiven? Answer

Peter and Annie are reunited when Peter’s assistant is injured and is airlifted to the base camp of K2 for medical care. They haven’t spoken to each other since their father’s death, which Annie blames Peter for causing. Their tension adds to the tension already brewing regarding the possibility that a storm may hinder the team’s plans. They eventually receive a favorable weather report and the climb proceeds as scheduled. When Annie and crew head out, Peter decides to stick around and wait for his sister’s return before going back to his job.

The storm that the weathermen thought would miss them eventually (and predictably) turns their way and endangers their lives. Against the advice of Tom McLaren, Elliot Vaughn arrogantly (and stupidly) orders the team onward, not wanting to miss his rendezvous with the flight. When an avalanche occurs, the team falls into a crevasse and is buried by the snow.

Peter then assembles a rescue team of six people, led by a scraggly, old legendary mountain climber named Montgomery Wick (Scott Glenn), whose wife just happens to have died on a previous climb with Elliot Vaughn. The plot thickens.

Peter hopes against all odds to reach his sister’s team before their emergency supplies run out.

Objectionable language consists of 1 use of the f-word and 1 of “the finger” gesture, 4 misuses of “God” or “Jesus,” 21 common swear words, and several other uses of colorful language. Other objectionable material includes: two brothers on the mountain are seen sunbathing nude and appear to be drunk, but due to the position of the men sitting in chairs, no private parts are exposed. In a later scene, people celebrate on the eve of the climb and many are drinking alcoholic beverages and/or smoking. Also, a man is shown urinating (we see his urine stream).

Aren’t all religions basically the same? Why do Christians insist that one must believe in Christ alone to be saved? Answer

Gross/gory instances occur when characters are injured or bloody (mostly scenes involving coughing up blood due to prolongued exposure to the high altitude conditions). On one occasion, we get a long view of a dead, frozen body. Violence consists of several minor scuffles and accidental explosions, a man kills one of his team members and another man attempts to kill someone, but stops himself. There are several instances when a decision is made to allow some people to die so that the others can live. The Pakistani military occasionally fires artillery towards India, but there is no return fire.

With so many cults and denominations, how can I decide which are true and which are false? Answer

HELL—Fact or Fiction? Answer

In one scene, a Muslim man prays. Another climber ponders the afterlife and mentions that all religions disagree on who you have to believe in to avoid going to hell, so no matter what, he’s doomed to go to hell. This view typifies the common attitude of “since I don’t know which religion is true, and they all claim to be true, I just won’t bother with any of them, and accept my fate.” This is sad.

Viewer Comments
Well, as a rock climber I just had to go see this one. It was almost comical. Technical errors were too numerous to count. Avalanches were random. Everything fell out or broke in slow motion. I did learn some new moves, however. 1. the reverse cam dyno. 2. the double ice axe flying leap. 3. cut partner off rope to save other partner technique. 4. nytro glycerine crevasse rescue. Hopefully, these will all come in handy someday. My Ratings: [Average / 1½]
mania, age 33
This movie was too ridiculous for me to enjoy it… The lead character makes a running leap across a chasm, and drops 30 feet before latching onto the opposite cliff with his 2 ice axes. I prefer Wiley Cyote’s technique: jump off the chasm, fall onto telephone wires at the bottom of the cliff, then bounce back up to the other side of the chasm. My Ratings: [Average / 1½]
Jim Yuill, age 40
In one word “Predictable”. If you are wanting to see this film then if you REALLY love snow then this is for you, but let me warn you: The story is VERY easy to predict. The story follows Peter Garret, and his sister. There Father dies at the beginning, Boo Hoo then Peter stops climbing and his sister moves on. It has a typical bad guy that would do anything to survive and dies at the end with the enemy. I saw this with my best friend and I predicted everything that was going to happen from beginning to end. It also made Australians look like idiots yet again which disappointed me. There really isn’t much to say, but this film Sucked! My Ratings: [Very Offensive / 1½]
Josiah Andre Walton, age 18
This was a HORRIBLE movie. I kept wanting it to end!! You could walk in on five minutes of this film and get the entire story. From the occasional profanity, the cutting open of a dead body to explode the blood as a signal, and the all around poorly done action scenes, this is the worst film I’ve seen all year. If you want mountain climbing excitement, rent “Everest” put out by IMAX. Pass on Vertical Limit. My Ratings: [Very Offensive / 1]
Anon, age Adult
I really enjoyed this action movie! There was a few uncalled for scenes, and quite a bit of bad language, but the story was awesome! I would not take my little sister to it because it was pretty intense and scary at parts! But teens and adults would definitely like this action movie. My Ratings: [Better than Average / 4]
Bryana, age 15
I can’t believe the other reviewers missed the important moral questions of the film. Wick is obsessed with getting revenge on his wife’s murder. When the opportunity presents itself will Wick give in to his baser nature or will he find forgiveness in his heart for his enemy? The opening scene is a natural for opening a dialogue with non-Christians, as the Father willing gives his life to save the life of his children. Was the son right to listen to the pleas of his dad and cut the rope, ending his father’s life? Or should he have listened to the voice of his sister? Will she ever be able to forgive him for the death of their father? Can he forgive himself? Though I had to suspend belief at a few points (“Can a person REALLY do that?”), I found the movie was exciting and NOT predictable as other reviewers here. The movie has a satisfactory ending (I won’t spoil it for you). My wife and I both found the film vital, thought-provoking, and with excellent cinematography. My Ratings: [Better than Average / 4]
Ron Reames, age 53
With increasing frequency Hollywood is producing movies that look breathtaking in the official trailer, causing you to suck in your breath and exclaim, “Must see!” …and then utterly disappointing you with the actual production. “Vertical Limit” is certainly no exception, the latest directorial effort from Martin Campbell, who takes a fall from the decent name he had finally made for himself with the wildly entertaining “The Mask of Zorro.” This movie suffers for a great deal of reasons, the two most obvious of which are the incessant cliches and overdone suspense scenes. It’s one thing to want to make the audience gasp; it’s another thing to try and do this every ten minutes throughout the entire movie. Within the first twenty minutes the audience is already desensitized to the suspense because they are repeatedly inundated with such scenes. There are no surprises to be found in predictability. And any shred of suspense a less observant person might retain is deflated by incessant cliche after cliche. One of the most anticipated movies of the year, “Vertical Limit” sadly turned out to be one of the most disappointing movies of the year. Save your money. If it’s an intense mountain climbing adventure movie you want to watch, spend your money instead on renting “K2” (1991), starring Michael Biehn and Matt Craven. My Ratings: [Average / 1½]
Ryft Braeloch, age 28
I went to the opening of Vertical Limit hoping that somehow a movie about an extreme sport would be exciting, well-acted, well-directed, and well-written… What was I thinking?! Vertical Limit is one of the worst movies I have seen this year. It is the worst kind of movie though… mediocre. The first sequence is blantantly a blue screen sequence that looks as if it were filming when this technique was first employed by directors. The storyline is so full of holes and absurdities that I left with so many questions the movie experience was far from satisfying. For Christians (and non-Christians as well), this movie should be a message to Hollywood. If you spend over 80 million dollars on a film make the whole film a quality piece of work from head to toe instead of a good preview showing every good scene in the movie. Morally it has several objectionable scenes, but nothing to offensive… the film quality itself is what is so repulsive. My Ratings: [Average / 1]
Ryan Hartsock, age 25
Vertical Limit is a very enjoyable action movie, one of the most thrilling I’ve seen in a long time. From the action lovers’ perspective, it delivers better than the norm. The believability of much of the action lends itself greatly to the effect of the entire movie. The storyline is well written and ties together nicely. There is little offensive material in the movie: a few of the too-common expletives and a scene with two mountain climbers sunbathing naked (although nothing shows). This movie is obviously not for everyone, especially young children and others who may cringe at very intense action and emotional sequences. Death is addressed very bluntly from the beginning of the movie. The austerity in some situations is mainly to illustrate that extreme conditions bring about extreme measures. Overall, Vertical Limit is an excellent movie which I can feel good about having watched and enjoyed. My Ratings: [Better than Average / 4½]
Al, age 19
This movie definitely left you shaking as you’re leaving the movie theater. Lots of explosions, avalanches, people hanging from a cliff kind of thing. The story behind all of the edge-of-your-seat suspense wasn’t bad, and suprisingly the acting was much better than the usual Chris O’Donnel movies. These are the kind of movies that are just a lot of fun to go see in the theater once in a while to get your adrenaline pumping. It definitely wouldn’t have the same effect on video. So other than a little bit of blood/gore, one “F” word and no real objectionable sexual content I would recommend older kids/pre-teens to adults go see this movie. My Ratings: [Average / 4]
Melissa, age 15
Movie Critics
…the emotionally phoniest movie of the year, one full of cornball spirituality in which every line is a cliché…
MaryAnn Johanson, The Flick Filosopher
…Despite the breathtaking action sequences, this movie contains foul language, violence, murder, and euthanasia among other elements…
Dr. Ted Baehr, Movieguide
…[shows] two naked men sitting in chairs…
…taking God’s name in vain and several obscenities…
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