You can’t beat the blizzard so why not embrace it by taking in a solid action-adventure flick while under a cozy blanket at home? “Vertical Limit” still packs every bit of the exciting punch it did 16 years ago and its search and rescue tale among the frozen heights of the brutal mountain peak known as K2 will make you reach for the thermostat. The large and impressive cast also boasts three fresh young faces who became familiar faces on TV shows, two veteran stars and even a Bond Girl.
Chris O’Donnell (“NCIS: Los Angeles”) leads them as Peter Garrett, a tortured wildlife photographer who gave up mountain climbing after a tragic accident on a climb with his father and his sister, Annie. Played with equal parts pluck, heartache and resentment by Robin Tunney (“The Mentalist”), Annie continues to climb and attempts to reach the top of K2 with a shady billionaire named Elliot Vaughn (Bill Paxton). When Annie becomes trapped at the vertical limit for human life of 26,000 feet with time and the elements viciously against her, Peter must come to terms with the past that haunts them both and rush to her rescue.
Robert Taylor, the Aussie actor who starred as the titular Wyoming Sheriff of TV’s “Longmire,” airs out his accent here to man the base camp. A well-cast grim faced Scott Glenn also joins the expedition as the mysterious and literal man of the mountain Montgomery Wick. And then there’s the tough and alluring Izabella Scorupco (“GoldenEye”) as the experienced French-Canadian climber Monique. They are an impressive team, but not nearly so impressive as the unforgiving terrain they face.
Director Martin Campbell, the man behind “GoldenEye,” “The Mask of Zorro” and “Casino Royale,” is no stranger to action flicks and goes all out with this one. You feel every bit of the frozen hostility on screen and never for one minute doubt its authenticity. His opening white knuckle sequence depicting the Garrett family tragedy is equally breathtaking in a desert environment. It actually stands on its own as a mini movie with an ending that will absolutely knock the wind right out of you.
In addition to the non-stop thrills, there’s more depth to this movie than you often get in similar films. The leads are all fully drawn and are complemented by a host of memorable supporting characters. They include nude sunbathing and drinking brothers Cyril and Malcolm (Steve Le Marquand, Ben Mendelsohn), who happen to be excellent climbers, and a Pakistani Major (Temuera Morrison) who routinely wakes up his warring Indian neighbors by firing his fort’s big guns. As if the elements and the characters that face them are not enough, he ups the ante by supplying them with highly volatile nitro. It all adds up to a wagon load of explosive tension and action.