Vertical Limit

5 out of 10


Comfy Action Flick

Lots of hype usually gets made about the really good, good movies and the really bad ones. Both kinds are held up as memorable examples to follow or avoid. Vertical Limit (Columbia Pictures) strikes me as neither extreme. It is a "work-a-day" action flick: it possesses all the basic elements of the genre (races, brash hero, sharp noises, onrushing threats, etc.) professionally combined to entertain and distract (only no enlightenment here!) and, above all, to make a few people wealthier.

The action plot is simple and straightforward. A young man (Chris O`Donnell) who has foresworn climbing after a shattering accident, must rescue his sister (Robin Tunney) from an avalanche-buried cravasse on the world`s second highest mountain peak. He must rush to assemble a team, then find his sister before she, and the rest of the team (including Nicholas Lee) die in the harsh environment. For those of you who think this is too straightforward don`t worry, there are several plot twists to make the road more hazardous.

The emotional plot involves those old, comfortable, predictable standbys: the journey into manhood through the act of making tough decisions, sacrifice for the greater good, and making peace with one`s past. Of course, no action movie can go far without the constant testing and trying of will, by means of which alone does the hero triumph.

Make no mistake though, despite all of this messy emotional stuff, this is an action movie, emphasis on action. Barely a scene goes by where you are not waiting anxiously for the rope to let go, the avalanche to arrive or the explosives (yues, explosives) to go off. Just when you sink back in your seat from reaction, flashing lights or sharp noises smack your adrenalin glands once again. A rollercoaster aptly describes thte constant buildup and release of tension (the comparison is apt with regards to the setting too: if heights and speed bother you, stay away from this movie).

The only truly negative point I noticed about the movie, and to all the action woes, was its predictable overkill. The director, Martin Campbell, wants obviously to keep the audience on edge, however, there are several times in the movie where Campbell felt in the maxim, "more is better" applied. The result was little more than an upset stomach and annoyance at such an obvious grab for the "gross out" factor. Many of these instances would probably have worked better had they benn implied rather than blatantly displayed. Numerous product shots were equally annoying, but thankfully brief.

As it is, Vertical Limit is a fine example of an action flick. If you`re left with nothing to do on an evening, especially if you`re an adrenalin junkie, this movie is the one for you.

See What An Average Action Film Is Like

Film Critic: Todd Archer