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Vertical Limit Superbit

"Vertical Limit" on DVD

A Real Cliffhanger Gets the Deluxe Treatment

The Superbit version of Vertical Limit is yet another great example of just how good a DVD can look and sound.

The movie isn't bad, either, all things considered.

When going to see an action flick, plot and acting are not really overly important.

Sure, if you can have them too, it's a definite bonus, but generally unnecessary.

Vertical Limit proves that action alone can make a movie enjoyable.

What there is of a plot is as follows: A tycoon returns to K2, the world's second highest - and most dangerous - mountain. As luck would have it, he and two of his guides end up getting caught in an avalanche and are stranded several metres below the surface.

There, they must endure hypothermia, a lack of food and water, and a disease that affects their lungs. So it's up to Chris O’Donnell to assemble a team to climb the mountain and rescue them, even though he quit climbing ten years ago. One of those who is trapped is his sister, you see, which makes the trip a personal journey as well as a merely humanitarian (well, they were getting well paid, too!) one.

Nitroglycerin is, of course, the only explosive they can find on such short notice, and they think it a great idea to take some along with them. And as sensitive as the nitro is, they manage to jump around all over the place without it blowing up. Yet, if it leaks onto the snow in bright sunlight, it blows up half the mountain.

As is the case with most action movies, there are times when you must suspend your knowledge of physics, as well as your belief in realism. Like when Peter (O’Donnell) is jumping across the valley to the other mountain (which turns out to be the same mountain for some reason); in real life he would snap his arms at least and definitely plummet to a painful death, but it makes for a cool sequence in a movie.

Martin Campbell shows his talent as an action movie director. His ability to emphasize action sequences can make you forget that this is one of the worst ideas ever concocted for a film. The Mask of Zorro was a very entertaining flick. And without Campbell’s touch, Goldeneye might not have been as good as it was.

The special effects are the other savior of this movie. Some of the shots are downright amazing; much better than those in Cliffhanger (the obvious father of Vertical Limit).

As is usually the case these days, most of the good parts are shown in the trailer. Fortunately, the sequences are much longer than the half second you see in the promo, so it's worth it to see them anyway.

Vertical Limit is an enjoyable popcorn movie. If you want to see action with some cool effects, you'll leave the home theater a happy climber.

Columbia Tristar's Superbit treatment makes this DVD, which already looked and sounded great, a spectacular home theater experience. The picture (anamorphic widescreen, 16x9 TV compatible) quality is razor sharp, with vivid colors and no discernable digital artifacts. It's this kind of picture that makes one glad to have a good quality widescreen TV.

Likewise the sound. As with other Superbit titles, it gives you the choice of either Dolby Digital or DTS 5.1 surround and whether it's the wind enveloping you, helicopters flying by, explosions or cannon fire, the audio quality is rich and textured, with excellent use of the surround channels.

So while the movie is a tad silly and predictable, the Superbit version is truly a spectacular widescreen treat for the eyes and ears.

Vertical Limit, from Columbia Tristar Home Video
124 min. widescreen (1.85:1) 16x9 compatible, Dolby Digital
Starring Chris O'Donnell, Bill Paxton, Robin Tunney, Scott Glenn
Produced by Lloyd Philips, Robert King, Martin Campbell
Written by Robert King and Terry Hayes, Directed by Martin Campbell.


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Updated May 13, 2006