Projections - Movie Reviews

Touching the Void

Starring Joe Simpson, Simon Yates, Richard Hawking,
Brendan Mackey, Nicholas Aaron, Ollie Ryall

The astonishing, harrowing tale of Joe Simpson and Simon Yates is part documentary and recreation making the experience of Touching The Void one cliffhanger of a movie. Even more riveting than the special f/x of megastorms in The Day After Tomorrow.

Director Kevin MacDonald stages a devastating mountain-climbing accident with dizzying verisimilitude. The approach of having Simpson and Yates relate the events is helpful, in spite of the uncertainty of their fate as it unfolds.

The time is 1985 and the setting is a 21,000 foot mountain face in Peru to be scaled in an “Alpine” manner. This involves having the essentials on their backpacks to reach the zenith and return to the foot of the mountain in one rush. Richard Hawking was the guy who watched their tents as they attempted this daunting ascent. The cinematography is nothing less than breathtaking as the arduous push leads to enormous difficulties.

After reaching the top, Joe severely fractures his leg on the way down in treacherous conditions like a wind chill nearing 100 degrees below zero. Simon’s fate also looks bleak, but the story mesmerizes in part because Simpson’s source book has a galvanizing quality apportioned to the big screen. Some may quibble that Nicholas Aaron as Simon and Brendan Mackey as Joe don’t resemble their counterparts as the descent appears to drift at times. But, the way MacDonald dramatizes this personal danger through courage and endurance supplemented by effective voice-overs puts Touching The Void at or near the top of movies that avidly make it to the vertical limit.

Touching the Void

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