Frost Bites


However seductive the pulp-cinematic mechanics of mountain-climbing misadventures might be, it’s a genre that really has only one destination (down) and one pace (glacial). Revisiting Davey-fell-in-the-well territory, Martin Campbell’s movie focuses on Bill Paxton and Robin Tunney—as a smug billionaire and a climbing expert, respectively—trapped in an ice cavern (though their breath is never visible) on K2 as Tunney’s bro Chris O’Donnell and renegade climbing savage Scott Glenn struggle to reach them before pulmonary edema kicks in. (The words “pulmonary edema” are repeated as many times as “pipe dreams” in The Iceman Cometh.) Since the trip up is littered with idylls and chitchat, there’s no sense of urgency, and the script is Barney-simple (someone explains Morse code to other climbers), but Vertical Limit‘s real problem is its digitized sheen. Every shot seems to have been CGI-enhanced, so the movie has an overpasteurized, Velveeta-like glow—processed movie food. The stunts have all the tension of bungee-tied rock climbing in Times Square.