Dir: Martin Campbell. US. 2000. 126 mins.
Prod co: Columbia Pictures. US dist: Columbia Pictures. Int'l dist: Columbia TriStar. Exec prod: Marcia Nasatir. Prods: Lloyd Phillips, Robert King, Martin Campbell. Scr: Robert King, Terry Hayes from a story by King. DoP: David Tattersall. Prod des: Jon Bunker. Ed: Thom Noble. Mus: James Newton Howard. Main cast: Chris O'Donnell, Bill Paxton, Robin Tunney, Scott Glenn, Izabella Scorupco, Temeura Morrison, Stuart Wilson.
Paper-thin characterisation and a ludicrous storyline don't matter in Vertical Limit - a spectacular actioner set on K-2 which makes Cliffhanger look like My Dinner With Andre. Martin Campbell, who has already proved himself a masterful audience-pleaser with GoldenEye and The Mask Of Zorro, knows how to work up an audience and his action setpieces here are edge-of-the-seat breathtaking.
Audiences everywhere will flock to this satisfying slice of hokum despite the lack of a big star name in the lead role. Initial numbers might not be as big as if a Stallone or Schwarzenegger were in the lead role but the brilliant trailer will make them substantial and word-of-mouth will only drive them up.
The plot - if you can call it that - begins with a brother and sister feud. While rock-climbing in Utah, brother (O'Donnell) has cut loose his father off a hanging rope in order to save the lives of he and his sister (Tunney). She has never forgiven him.
Years later, he is working on a National Geographic photography project in the Himalayas when he comes across a major expedition up K2 in which she is one of the guides. Leader of the expedition is brash billionaire Paxton who plans to scale the peak in order to coincide with the maiden flight of his new airline (no prizes for guessing who his character is based on).
But when they are caught in an avalanche and trapped in an underground cave with less than a day to live, O'Donnell must race to the top of the mountain to save them. His team includes reclusive mountaineer Scott Glenn and beautiful Izabella Scorupco.
From the hair-raising opening scene through avalanches, death leaps, hazardous helicopter drop-offs and nitroglycerine explosions, Campbell keeps the suspense mounting and the nerves on edge. As the clever tag-line advises, "Hold Your Breath".