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VERTICAL LIMIT

SYNOPSIS:
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.

"Beyond the vertical limit of the Himalayan peaks in no-man's land, snow leopards frolic in the crisp, dense white expanse that stretches far beyond the horizon. The vistas are spectacular: this is terrain so rugged that only the eagles dare to soar there. Breathtaking to look at, the natural wonders are inspirational, albeit on celluloid. The challenge of climbing a mountain 'because it's there' is one that has seduced man since the beginning of time and nature's roulette game has always raised high stakes; life and death decisions are the order of the day. Vertical Limit showcases awesome natural panoramas with big stunts in a sometimes thrilling Hollywood-style adventure. And New Zealand's extraordinary locations double magnificently for them providing a dramatic and awesome backdrop for the action. The opening sequences are superb: tension is intense and we suddenly jump into a world where there's no place for vertigo or second chances. Cinematic and very visual, we watch the actors scale a vertical sheet of snow, stark cliff faces and tempting fate by extraordinary physical endeavours. There's plenty of action, stunts and memorable moments, although some may suggest it's almost too slick at times. At times I found myself wishing for the genuine simplicity of the French/Nepalese film Himalaya, which in many ways is more effecting. But, this is Hollywood, and on that palette, Vertical Limit successfully paints its canvass. It's a bit formulaic and manipulative (soundtrack included) and unfortunately I didn't really care enough for the characters' plight. I wish I did; I wanted to like the film more. But there is a nice international mix to the cast – cultures from Australia, New Zealand, US and Europe complement each other like flavours in good cuisine. Ben Mendelsohn stands out in a laconic, comic role – his is the character we can perhaps relate to best of all, and Mendelsohn is terrific. I especially liked Scott Glenn and Izabella Scorupco, while Robert Taylor takes on an Aussie role reminiscent of a young Rod Taylor. Apart from the breathtaking visuals, what stays with me most is the notion that while all men die, it is what you do before you die that counts."
Louise Keller

"I have a very special relationship with mountains, though I’m not a climber. I’ve walked up and down the Austrian Alps, even skied on them, and often admired them. Mountains are the earth’s majesties, royalty to the workers in the lower classes. Mountains inspire poetry, music, passion and endurance. Mountains move man. Vertical Limit does not. A boys’ own adventure, though, and it probably clicks with its young male target audience. I liked it more than Louise, but then I’m a boy. (Stop sniggering there.) What would I change? Much of the script and some of the casting. Too much cardboard. Like Louise, I think Mendelsohn is terrific. In fact, all the Aussies are, with good lines. What a great piece of casting and writing – in parts. It has adrenaline rushes - in parts - and some spectacular cliff-hanging, but the touches of melodrama and a predictable Bill Paxton baddie reduces its impact. In other words, it’s limited."
Andrew L. Urban

"Vertical Limit is one movie that furnishes precisely what its publicity has promised. High-flying mountaineering action, avalanches, jumping across the abyss - they’re all here in spades. What’s missing though is anything else that would elevate this above your run-of-the-mill actioner. The characters are straight out of the cardboard cutouts box - from Bill Paxton’s Branson-esque millionaire to Scott Glenn’s irascible team leader. The plot is so simple it doesn’t even bear examining; and the extensive use of blue screen effects detracts from the impact of the often spectacular stunts. But despite this, I couldn’t help but be swept along by Vertical Limit. There’s barely a dull moment in the 2 hours plus running time, and the race to find the stranded climbers becomes ever more tense as the clock winds down. There are even a few moments of genuine humour, most of it courtesy of the Australians in the cast. Ben Mendelsohn in particular provides a nice larrikin touch, in contrast to the deadly seriousness of the Americans. Chris O’Donnell makes a better fist of his role here than in the dreadful The Bachelor, and manages to imbue Peter with at least a touch of down-home credibility. Robin Tunney is unfortunately wasted as his sister, spending most of the film gasping for breath and fighting her way out from under snow. Bill Paxton is in much the same boat, although he manages to be suitably creepy when the occasion calls for it. But Vertical Limit is not the kind of film where performances matter a great deal. This is all about the stunts, the scenery and the snowstorms; and despite being little more than a series of set pieces, the film delivers in those departments."
David Edwards

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 2

Hear Andrew L. Urban's interview with
BEN MENDELSOHN

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TRAILER

VERTICAL LIMIT (M)
(US)

CAST: Chris O'Donnell, Bill Paxton, Robin Tunney, Nicholas Lea, Alexander Siddig, Scott Glenn, Izabella Scorupco, Ben Mendelsohn, Steve Le Marquand, Robert Taylor, Temuera Morrison

DIRECTOR: Martin Campbell

PRODUCER: Martin Campbell, Robert King, Marcia Nasatir

SCRIPT: Robert King, Terry Hayes

CINEMATOGRAPHER: David Tattersall

EDITOR: Thom Noble

MUSIC: James Newton Howard

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Jon Bunker

RUNNING TIME: 123 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Columbia TriStar

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 21, 2000

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Col Tristar Home Video

VIDEO RELEASE: June 13, 2001







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