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Eccentric tycoon Elliot Vaughn (Bill Paxton) has an audacious new marketing idea - he’s going to climb to the top of K2 and wave at the inaugural flight of his new airline. He hires a crack climbing team which includes Annie Garrett (Robin Tunney). Meanwhile, Annie’s brother Peter (Chris O’Donnell) along with many others at base camp has doubts about the idea. When the climbers fall into a ravine and are trapped, it’s up to Peter to assemble a rescue team. Led by the grumpy Montgomery Wick (Scott Glenn), and including laconic Australians Cyril (Steve Le Marquand) and Malcolm Bench (Ben Mendelsohn) plus beautiful Monique (Izabella Scorupco), they must beat both time and their own fears to rescue the stranded group.

"This vertigo inducing action-adventure delivers plenty as it charts what happens when Richard Branson-like billionaire Elliot Vaughn (Bill Paxton) decides he wants to stand on top of K2 (the world's second highest mountain) and wave to the passengers on the inaugural flight of the airline he's just launched. Naturally, Vaughn and company get stranded, requiring photographer Peter Garrett (Chris O'Donnell) and toeless mountain climbing legend Montgomery Wick (Scott Glenn) to lead a dangerous rescue bid. Garrett was a climber once but lost his nerve after being forced to sacrifice his father while saving himself and sister Annie (Robin Tunney) during the film's thrilling opening scene.

It's Annie (Robin Tunney) up there with Vaughn and like a former gunfighter forced to pick up the pistols one more time, Garrett decides to save his sis and lay that awful memory to rest. Helping him are larrikinAussie brothers (Ben Mendlesohn and Steve Le Marquand), fiery French-Canadian (Izabella Scorupco, proving there is life after Bond girl duties in Goldeneye) and another legendary mountaineer named Skip (Robert Taylor). High altitude thrills ensue as the daredevils brave the elements while we play "which supporting characters will be the first to die?" And many of them do in a series of dazzling special effects sequences.

A massive budget and the services of crack helmer Martin Campbell aren't all Vertical Limit has going for it. Terry Hayes' screenplay is sharper and has more satisying character development than most "event" pictures, making it easier to go along with the standard plot.

The audio commentary by Campbell and producer Lloyd Phillips is a little disappointing. Too few interesting anecdotes make it rather dry although the technical information offered is satisfying if that’s your bag. The bonus footage, featuring just about every key player (except Mendelsohn and Le Marquand!) is entertaining and well produced. For sheer tension Cliffhanger still reigns but there's enough here to keep most thrillseekers happy."
Richard Kuipers

Published June 21, 2001

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(US) (2000)

CAST: Chris O'Donnell, Bill Paxton, Scott Glen, Robin Tunney, Izabella Scorupco, Ben Mendelsohn, Steve Le Marquand, Robert Taylor, Nicholas Lea, Temuera Morrison
DIRECTOR:Martin Campbell
DVD RELEASE: June 13 2001
SPECIAL FEATURES: Widescreen 2.35:1, Audio Commentary with director Martin Campbell and Producer Lloyd Phillips, Behind the Scenes Featurette, Search and Rescue Tales. Languages: English, Hungarian. Subtitles: English, Dutch, Polish (commentary track also subtitled in Dutch)

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