If you're afraid of heights, "Vertical Limit" is not the movie for you.
This is an action adventure that drags the viewer to -- and sometimes over -- the edge of one of the world's tallest peaks, Pakistan's K2.
In scene after nail-biting scene, climbers test the outer limits of their strength, will and equipment as they tangle with the elements -- at 26,000 feet -- in keeping with the human-against-nature theme.
Directed by Martin Campbell ("The Mask of Zorro" and "007: Goldeneye"), the film efficiently achieves its central purpose: to provide a thrill a moment with little regard for plot or character.
Sure, there's a story line that chugs the movie along its course, but "Vertical Limit" is unabashed in its devotion to action at any cost. And the formula works, thanks to the harrowing nature of the film's setting.
Here's the story: Peter (Chris O'Donnell) and Annie Garrett (Robin Tunney), a brother-sister climbing team, have gone their separate ways after a climbing accident claims the life of their father.
Years later, their paths cross at the base of K2, where Annie is about to embark on a climbing expedition organized as a promotional event by rich and brash Elliot Vaughn (Bill Paxton).
Once on the mountain, the team runs into weather trouble but Vaughn pushes the climbers toward inevitable disaster, which arrives in the form of an avalanche.
Annie, Vaughn and the guide (Nicholas Lea) are trapped in a cave under the snow, and Peter races against time to organize a rescue team, scale the mountain and dig out the lost climbers before dehydration claims their lives.
All of this sets the stage for one harrowing scene after another, including a highly effective sequence in which the rescue team is dropped on the face of K2 by helicopter.
In another, a climber slides over the edge only to save himself with the spiked head of his climbing ax.
Phew, this and many other scenes draw gasps from the audience. And that's the point.
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