But as bad as I recall Cliffhanger being, it pales in comparison to Vertical Limit. Just thinking about it makes me angry. Take the first scene, for example. We see three intrepid climbers, father, son and daughter, scaling a sandstone tower in the desert. The son reaches a roof on what looks to be a difficult pitch, all the while singing an Eagles song that his sister, dammit, simply DOESN’T RECOGNISE. He cuts loose and hangs there, like a TWAT, saying “You give up?”
And her response? She scowls, does something (I don’t know what) with the ropes, and says;
WHAT THE LITERAL EVER-LOVING FUCK DOES THAT MEAN?!?The father was the one who led the pitch, he’s way up on the next stance, surely he’s the one belaying? Or maybe the siblings are so competitive they only allow each other the security of a belay if they succeed in baffling the other as to what song they are singing? But no, look closely and you will see that the son is indeed climbing with a rope from both above and below. What’s more, it’s only after he surmounts the roof, and presumably the crux, that good old Dad decides to strap on a gri-gri and actually safeguard his son’s climbing.
I am not exaggerating, you could sit me in a room with every climber who has ever lived, is living, and will live, for the rest of time, and I could not be made to understand what kind of system they are using in this scene. Fortunately it doesn’t matter, because a few seconds later the team above them fall off, all their bolts EXPLODE, and the trailing ropes floss everyone off the face.
BUT WAIT!!!A single cam holds them all, and, despite the incalculable force of a 5 person mega whipper, does not break. Surely this is the most bomber gear placement in the world? Well yes, except for the fact that it then starts merrily sliding down the crack, threatening to send them all to their frankly well-deserved DEATHS. How does that work? Is the cam ALIVE???
Whole essays could be written on everything that is wrong with this scene, but suffice it to say there is a lot. And that’s only the opening 10 minutes. Good old Dad, the world’s most haphazard belayer, is CUT FREE in order that his horrible children survive, and so the emotional drama is cunningly set up for the remainder of the film.It focuses on an egocentric millionaire and his desire to summit K2 at the exact moment his new fleet of planes fly over. Or something like that. I think. Anyway, the daughter is a member of the team, and her brother, who she blames for Dad’s DEATH, just happens to be in the area. They meet up, sparks fly, it becomes quickly apparent that a lot of VERY STUPID PEOPLE are about to set foot on a VERY DANGEROUS MOUNTAIN, and that’s about that. The brother stays behind with a predictable bunch of mismatched idiots, and the sister and the millionaire begin the climb. At one point real life mountaineer Ed Viesturs shows up, with the dazed expression of a man who can’t quite believe what he is witnessing. You’re not alone there, Ed.
They climb. It all goes TITS UP.Avalanches, blah blah, bad desicions, blah blah blah, “we can’t possibly turn back now”, etc etc, they all end up trapped in a crevasse, injured and cut off, IN THE DEATH ZONE. Now the brother, who hasn’t climbed since Dad’s DEATH, must venture up to save his sister. And maybe the others, but they don’t matter as much. Because, you know.
In a sequence of events that bend over and arse-rape credulity, climbing logic, and even the fundamental laws of reality themselves, our team of chalk ’n’ cheese rescuers inch closer to the crevasse. They take with them NITRO-GLYCERINE, so obviously some of them EXPLODE before they get there. We witness wonders such as dynamic cam placements (for the uninitiated, this is where an un-roped climber escapes from a ledge by jumping, cam first, at what may or may not be a suitable crack placement, sinks the device, and thus is saved). More people DIE, but that’s OK, because none of them are AMERICAN.I can’t actually be bothered to type anymore, so here’s a quick conclusion. The sister is rescued, with the NITRO-GLYCERINE, of course, but the foolish millionaire PLUNGES TO HIS DEATH in a crevasse. However, this is alright, because prior to that moment there is a lingering shot where he clearly, beyond any reasonable doubt, does THE EVIL EYES. The brother and sister reconcile, new relationships are forged, and no one seems to mind the fact that dozens of people DIED in order to save just one.
So, after much careful consideration, I have decided to award this film a score of 27 hexes out of a pair of 50m half ropes, and now I’m going to KILL MYSELF.