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Movie Review

It’s man against nature in the high-altitude action thriller Vertical Limit . O’Donnell plays Peter Garrett who, three years after losing his father in a climbing accident, must brave the elements to rescue his sister trapped somewhere on K-2, the world’s second highest peak. Audiences get an icy adrenaline rush from wild stunts and impressive special effects. They’re also challenged to assess the "relative" value of human life.

If the weight of three men dangling from a mountain threatens to pull them to their deaths, should one be sacrificed? Should a vital serum in short supply be used on a man already dying from internal injuries? Are three stranded climbers worth risking the lives of six more in a "suicide mission" to retrieve them? This white-knuckler features sacrificial heroics and self-serving pragmatism ("We can’t waste resources on a lost cause"). It’s an entertaining way to explore moral issues with teens.

Sadly, many families will never venture out into the cold. And for good reason. The film includes numerous profanities, vulgar sexual references, an obscene gesture and a graphic shot of a man urinating. Alcohol use is also a problem. Portrayals of spiritual zeal are not Christian, and one man dismisses all faiths because they contradict each other.

Most of Vertical Limit’s violence involves nature’s wrath. Falling from heights. Freezing to death. Men are blown into precipices by raging avalanches and blown up when the sun ignites canisters of nitroglycerine. A woman is even nicked by a chopper blade when a nasty updraft rocks her ride, but such scenes are more unnerving than explicit.

A little more editing and Vertical Limit would’ve be a thoughtful nail-biter. The journey is interrupted, however, by arctic blasts of pointless material that nips at our sensibilities.

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Chris O’Donnell, Scott Glenn, Robin Tunney, Bill Paxton, Izabella Scorupco


Martin Campbell ( )


Columbia TriStar



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Bob Smithouser

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