Touching the Void (2003)

I didn’t put a knot into the end of the rope. If there was nothing down there, I would fall, and it would be quick.

— Joe Simpson

Kevin MacDonald’s film, Touching the Void has been on lips of film buffs everywhere saying that anybody who hasn’t seen it should. I have heard nothing but praise for this documentary that infuses re-enactments to the talking heads. I thought that it was a harrowing account of survival, but I thought it was anticlimactic.

This movie re-tells the story of three people trying to attempt to climb the 20,813 ft Siula Grande Mountain in the Peruvian Andes in 1985. Based on the book of the same name; Joe Simpson, Simon Yates and Richard Hawking recounts their harrowing seven days ordeal. As the talking heads are speaking, the events are dramatized with Brendan Mackey as Joe, Nicholas Aaron as Simon and Oliie Ryall as Richard.

Other climbers had attempted to climb to the summit of Siula Grande. These relative strangers could together to climb it. Richard stays behind at the base camp while Joe and Simon climb up. They want to climb the mountain Alpine style, which means that they are climbing the mountain non-stop with their essentials taken with them.

Joe is the climber and Simon is taken the slack to him. They get a feel of the terrain which was mostly very steep with rocky portions in them. On the second day, a powerful storm hits the climbers where the snow froze on contact with their clothing. They didn’t realize that not having enough gas to melt the snow for water or having adequate food with prove crucial for what was about to come up when they dug a cave to sleep in.

The storm passes the next day and they climb up to the summit. They bask in the glory of their feat. When the two try to find a way back down, a patch of clouds roll in, losing their way down the mountain. They are taken to the most dangerous part of the mountain where on the descent down, Joe looses his grip and begins to fall. He stops only to find that he broke his leg that shattered his kneecap in half.

Simon tries to find a way to get an injured Joe down the mountain alive without causing more to the leg. Simon decides to have all of the available rope they have to give enough slack for Joe to slide down the mountain. The trouble is that by nightfall, Simon lowered Joe so much that Joe was dangling off the side of the mountain.

I thought that this was a good movie, but I had a bring problem with the people recounting the story. This is the same problem that I had with Man on Wire where they have the person there with an actor re-enacting what is being said. It took away the suspense of did this person survive this ordeal. For me the first thirty was mind-numbingly boring that I almost turned the movie off. I thought when is the guy gonna break his leg already. I also had a problem with the over-swelling score. Cue the violins. Come on, every time that a tense moment comes up the score had to suck the tension out of the moments.

Judgment: All in all, I’m glad that I saw it, but it’s not the greatest documentary of all time.

Rating: ****

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About Branden

Branden: I am just your average movie nut that reviews films. Gives his take on pop culture and Hollywood happenings. Dreams to have his own thriving website and make a living doing what he is passionate about.

Posted on March 1, 2010, in 2003, Adventure, Documentary, Drama, Sports and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. I saw this in a packed theater in NY and I have never been so on the edge of my seat during a movie. Been curious to see if it’s as effective on a small screen, but what an unreal story all the same. Good review, man. Love this movie.

    • Well, I guess I had too high of expectations of this movie. It was good, but not mind-blowing. I don’t know what would happen if I saw this on the big screen instead of IFC.

  2. I liked Touching the Void. Even though you obviously know that he survived, it still is an incredible story of survival

    • Yeah, I know, but I wished it was the element of surprise. I hated when Joe or Simon said, “I’m gonna die! I’m gonna die!” Obviously, they didn’t. That bothered me.

      • I had a funny story about a mountain climbing venture three friends and I went on.

        We get to the top realize we can’t go down the way we came up. First thing Tyler yells is, “If I die tell everyone at my funeral that the Cowboys suck.”

        How would you like those to be your last words?

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