Vertical Limit

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Vertical Limit
Vertical Limit.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Martin Campbell
Produced by Martin Campbell
Robert King
Marcia Nasatir
Lloyd Phillips
Screenplay by Robert King
Terry Hayes
Story by Robert King
Starring Chris O'Donnell
Bill Paxton
Robin Tunney
Scott Glenn
Izabella Scorupco
Temuera Morrison
Stuart Wilson
Music by James Newton Howard
Cinematography David Tattersall
Edited by Thom Noble
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release dates
December 8, 2000
Running time
124 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $75 million[1]
Box office $215,663,859[2]

Vertical Limit is a 2000 American survival thriller film directed by Martin Campbell and starring Chris O'Donnell, Bill Paxton, Robin Tunney and Scott Glenn. The film was shot on several locations including Monument Valley, New Zealand and Pakistan.


While climbing in Monument Valley, siblings Peter (O'Donnell) and Annie Garrett (Tunney) lose their father, Royce (Stuart Wilson). After two falling amateurs leave the family dangling, Royce forces Peter to cut him loose to save Peter and his sister. Peter has since retired from climbing and is a full-time wildlife photographer, and Annie has become a renowned mountain climber. Three years later during an wildlife shooting at lower Himalayans in Pakistan, Peter's assistant falls and injures his leg. Peter is dropped off at K2 base camp and searches for Annie who is planning a summit attempt on K2, the world's second highest and most dangerous mountain, due to unpredictable weather conditions and difficult technical climbing sections. The expedition is funded by wealthy industrialist Elliot Vaughn (Paxton) who is also part of Annie's expedition, with the help of renowned climber Tom McLaren (Nicholas Lea).

The climb is a disaster as a storm closes in and the winds begin to wreak havoc, causing an avalanche. Annie, Vaughn, and Tom fall through a patch of ice and become trapped in a crevasse, while the other expedition members are killed. Peter who initially radioed Tom to turn around stands by the radio and begins to hear Annie using Morse code to inform base camp they are alive. Due to the seriousness of the cave-in, the rescue party brings old nitroglycerin in leaky canisters in an attempt to blast a hole for a rescue. Peter manages to assemble a rescue mission with some of the climbers at base camp, including brothers, Cyril and Malcolm (Le Marquand and Mendelsohn), Monique Aubertine (Izabella Scorupco), Kareem Nazir (Alexander Siddig) and Skip Taylor (Robert Taylor). Skip and Peter also visit the reclusive Montgomery Wick (Glenn), reported to be the world's best climber and foremost expert on K2, who agrees to join in the rescue attempt to reach the team before they die of pulmonary edema. Skip is unable to go as Wick says he needs someone he can trust at base camp directing the mission.

The teams pair off: Malcolm and Kareem, Monique and Cyril, and Peter and Wick. Each team takes different entry points up the mountain to increase chances of success. Monique and Cyril enter trouble when Cyril loses his balance and clings to the side of a cliff. After Monique secures her harness to him, the peak cracks and Monique also falls over the edge with the nitro exploding beneath them. Cyril is able to climb back up, but an avalanche throws him over the edge of a steep cliff. Monique pulls herself up and radios base camp that Cyril has been killed. Back at the military station, the nitroglycerine comes into contact with the sun and explodes. Base camp tell the teams to get their cases of nitroglycerin into the shade. Kareem and Malcolm do so, but while resting after covering the cases, the leaked nitroglycerin eventually gets into contact with the sun And explodes, killing the two.

Meanwhile, underground, Annie begins to suffer from pulmonary edema. Tom is in a more severe state, with his leg and ribs broken. Vaughn is the only one unharmed and possesses dexamethasone. Vaughn's story from his first disastrous climb on K2 detailed that the dexamethasone was swept away, but Wick later discovers an empty box of dex, proving that Vaughn used it for himself and ultimately let Wick's wife die from pulmonary edema to which Wicks swears revenge on Vaughn.

Meanwhile, in the crevasse, Vaughn administers dex to himself and kills Tom with the syringe full of air to save the remaining dex for himself. Wick wakes up to find Peter and Monique gone, having continued climbing the mountain. He soon locates where Annie and Vaughn are trapped, and they use the nitroglycerin to blast a hole, enabling access to the survivors. Wick descends into the cave and harnesses Annie, and although a weakened Vaughn thinks he is about to attack him, Wick attaches a harness to him as well. Along with Peter, he attempts to pull Annie out of the crevasse, but an ice boulder falls, knocking Wick and Vaughn from the ledge in the crevice and pulling Annie and Peter down. Monique alone remains on the ledge holding the rope with the other four hang on to it. To save Annie and Peter, and to fulfill his revenge on Vaughn, Wick pulls a knife from his pocket, says a Buddhist prayer and cuts the rope holding himself and Vaughn (similar to Royce Garrett's death) dropping the two to their deaths.

Recovering at base camp, Annie reconciles with Peter, who finally pays his respects at a memorial for those killed on K2, including Wick, Vaughn, Kareem, his cousin Ali, Cyril and Malcolm, Tom McLaren, and Wick's late wife who was a guide.


Professional mountaineer Ed Viesturs has a cameo in the film, playing himself as a trainer.[3]


Vertical Limit received mixed reviews from critics, as the film holds a 48% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 109 reviews.[4] The movie has the rating of 3/5 stars on[5]


  1. ^ 'Vertical Limit' (budget), Box Office Mojo. Retrieved April 16, 2015.
  2. ^ "Vertical Limit box office statistics". 
  3. ^ Viesturs, Ed; David Roberts (2007). No Shortcuts to the Top: Climbing the World's 14 Highest Peaks. Random House, Inc. p. 225. ISBN 9780767924719. 
  4. ^ Vertical Limit. Rotten Tomatoes. 
  5. ^ Deming, Mark. "Vertical Limit (2000)". Allmovie. Retrieved 5 October 2015. 

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