Touching the Void

"Excellent"

Touching the Void Review


If you need convincing about the virtues of good conditioning, see this documentary. Without its subjects' extreme fitness the outcome of this mountaineering adventure would have been far different, more disastrous, and likely not told.

But it is told, and by the survivors of a climb that holds you spellbound in the expectation of grave misfortune even as you know how it will turn out because its talking heads are the adventurers themselves. As the film progresses, you keep expecting a camera pullback to reveal lost limbs and paraplegic narrators.

They relate the story of how, on a successful climb to the top of Peru's never-before conquered, 21,000-foot Siula Grande, Joe Simpson breaks his leg on the descent, requiring his partner Simon Yates to attempt a rescue calling for strength and strategy. Wrapped in blinding fog, Yates lowers his crippled companion rope length by rope length, 300 feet at a time, until Simpson drops to a place that puts both climbers in a precarious position and mortal danger.

With no way to see his buddy, Yates is at first mystified by the unrelieved tension on the line for far longer than expected. He finally realizes that what's causing the lifeline not to relax is Simpson's inability to gain a secure footing. This can only mean he must be suspended in space, off a ledge outcropping, and that the gradient of descent is vertical, over the void. Yates' attempts to pull up on the line prove futile, causing him to slip and lose his own footing.

With night falling and temperatures turning frigid, Yates then faces untenable options. After much anguish he reaches a desperate decision that suddenly elevates this account of an edgy climbing experience into a life or death drama. It is powerfully delivered by the participants as it's reenacted convincingly by actors Brendan Mackey (as Joe Simpson) and Nicholas Aaron (as Simon Yates). The juxtaposition of the re-created events with the survivors affirming them from their unique perspectives is startling and, at times, defies belief.

Bringing the ordeal to us in icy, vivid detail are cameramen Keith Partridge, Simon Wagen, and Dan Shoring. Under some fine direction by Kevin Macdonald, they produce all the coverage needed to capture the excitement of a monster challenge, the heartbreak of hopelessness, and an outcome that turned failure into something else. It makes for a gripping tale and a jaw-dropping documentary.

While the editing might jump a little here or there and the visual quality less than perfect in instances, the sense of reality and the many glimpses of mountain magnificence are enough to put aside any call for technical perfection. Just thinking of the crew positioning themselves for filming angles when conditions get worse than harsh on that unyielding peak is enough to tingle the nerves.

When you see this film, bundle up and be prepared for an education in the possible.

And handful of extras back up the DVD, including making-of featurettes and a "what happened next" interview with the duo.

Momma told me not to touch the void.



Touching the Void

Facts and Figures

Run time: 106 mins

In Theaters: Friday 12th December 2003

Box Office USA: $4.5M

Box Office Worldwide: $13.9M

Distributed by: IFC Films

Production compaines: Film4, UK Film Council, Darlow Smithson Productions, PBS

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 93%
Fresh: 129 Rotten: 9

IMDB: 8.1 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Joe Simpson, as Simon Yates, as sich, Ollie Ryall as Richard Hawking, as sich, as sich

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Colossal Movie Review

Colossal Movie Review

It's rare to find a movie that so defiantly refuses to be put into a...

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Movie Review

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Movie Review

It's unlikely that Guy Ritchie could make a boring movie if he wanted to. This...

Snatched Movie Review

Snatched Movie Review

It doesn't really matter that the script for this lively action-comedy is paper thin: teaming...

Jawbone Movie Review

Jawbone Movie Review

Boxing movies aren't usually this thoughtful. Sure, there are plenty of punchy moments in the...

Whisky Galore! Movie Review

Whisky Galore! Movie Review

Scottish filmmaker Gillies MacKinnon (Hideous Kinky) remakes the 1949 Ealing comedy classic, although it's difficult...

Alien: Covenant Movie Review

Alien: Covenant Movie Review

Master filmmaker Ridley Scott is back to continue the story 10 years after the events...

The Journey (2017) Movie Review

The Journey (2017) Movie Review

A fictionalised account of real events, this drama is reminiscent of Peter Morgan's work in...

Advertisement
Sleepless Movie Review

Sleepless Movie Review

In remaking the 2011 French thriller Sleepless Night, the filmmakers have dumbed down both the...

Unlocked Movie Review

Unlocked Movie Review

By injecting a steady sense of fun, this slick but mindless action thriller both holds...

Lady Macbeth Movie Review

Lady Macbeth Movie Review

A seriously impressive feature directing debut with a star-making central performance, this period British drama...

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Movie Review

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Movie Review

It was never going to be easy to match the impact of 2014's Guardians of...

The Promise Movie Review

The Promise Movie Review

The director of Hotel Rwanda, Terry George, turns to another humanitarian horror: the systematic murder...

Their Finest Movie Review

Their Finest Movie Review

Skilfully written, directed and acted, this offbeat British period film tells a story that catches...

Unforgettable Movie Review

Unforgettable Movie Review

With heavy echoes of trashy thrillers like Fatal Attraction, this movie overcomes its painfully simplistic...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.