Making the Grades
Peter Garrett (Chris O'Donnell) cut the rope--knowing it meant certain death for his father. Well aware of mountain climbing's risks, the family was still unprepared for the terrible situation that left Peter, his father, and sister Annie (Robin Tunney) dangling by a thread from a sheer rock face, with dad begging Peter to sacrifice one life to save two.
The decision severs the relationship between the siblings, because Annie isn't convinced there were no other options. Their silence continues unbroken for three years, until separate work assignments (Peter as a photographer, Annie as a climber) bring them together in the Himalayas.
Hired by Elliot Vaughn (Bill Paxton), Annie and another guide are responsible for getting the airline tycoon to the top of K2 for an elaborate promotional stunt. But when the weather turns ugly, they instead become trapped in a hopeless situation, and only Peter is willing to lead a rescue attempt.
A cliffhanger in the most literal sense of the word, the over-the-brink shots and searing sounds are sure to deliver thrills and chills that teens and adults may appreciate, but younger children most likely will not. Parents may also shudder at language such as the use of a sexual expletive and a vulgar comparison of conquering a mountain to sexually seducing a woman, along with alcohol and cigarette use.
Audiences of any age are sure to recognize the familiar disaster-story elements. For instance, when eight people set off on a movie mission, you can bet eight ain't comin' back! By the end of this non-stop life and death flic, I had seen a lot of people drop to their doom (one shown hitting the ground). Other predictable turns of events include people struggling to stay alive amidst freezing weather, avalanches, explosions, and an injury. The two Australian climbers who enjoy sunbathing naked (not explicit) seem to have been added to lighten the mood.
Then, after struggling for nearly two hours to get to the top of K2, a quick fade provides the classic unanswered question: How did they get back? I think we got snowed again.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Vertical Limit.
To appreciate this movie, you have to sympathize with the characters. Do you feel Peter made the right decision when he cut the rope holding his father? Was Annie justified in criticizing Peter for his actions? What would you have done given the same circumstances?
In reality, many people have been critical of relatively inexperienced people who pay high fees to experienced crews to escort them on climbs of famous mountains. A major mishap occurred on Mt. Everest in 1996 due to a situation similar to the one depicted in this movie. Do you think this movie would encourage or discourage people from taking exorbitant climbing risks?