Vertical Limit meets real life in this deceptively simple documentary. The story of two British mountain climbers who stared death in the face while climbing a treacherous peak in the Peruvian Andes, Touching The Void is a gripping tale of ordinary men coping with extraordinary circumstances.
In May 1985, Joe Simpson and Simon Yates ventured up the unclimbed west face of the Siula Grande Mountain. As they scaled the snowy peak with "no margin for error, no helicopter rescue and no 999", disaster struck. Simpson shattered his knee joint as he hit the ground.
"SUPERHUMAN FEAT OF ENDURANCE"
In sub-zero temperatures, the odds were against them. A further accident left Simpson dangling over an ice crevasse, with Yates' only option being to cut the rope and save himself. It was certain death for Simpson - except that, by some fluke, he survived. Over the course of the next few days, he dragged himself across miles of glaciers without food, water or painkillers in a superhuman feat of endurance.
Based on Simpson's bestselling book, Touching The Void was originally planned as a Tom Cruise movie. Fortunately, sense prevailed and this carefully balanced blend of talking heads and dramatic reconstructions saved the story from becoming yet another brainless blockbuster.
What really stands out amidst the inevitable Reader's Digest-style focus on the triumph of the human spirit is the frank honesty of both men in relating their stories. Yates' admission that he spent most of his journey down the mountain trying to think up a story that would make him "look better" makes him surprisingly sympathetic.
Meanwhile, Simpson's account of sitting alone in an ice crevasse waiting for death while musing on the existence of God is harrowing, particularly since he came to the conclusion that he was completely alone in the universe. Imagine what Tom Cruise would have made of that.