Touching the Void (****)

(2004) dir Kevin Macdonald – w/ Nicholas Aaron as Simon Yates and Brendan Mackey as Joe Simpson; also with Joe Simpson and Simon Yates
Synopsis: Based on the true story of two climbers (Joe Simpson [who wrote the book Touching the Void] and Simon Yates) who attempt an ascent of an unclimbed mountain in South America (Siula Grande) and meet with disastrous results. The ascent itself is almost without a hitch, but on the way down Joe breaks his leg, badly, and things rapidly deteriorate from there. This movie/documentary uses interviews with Joe and Simon and stunning, harrowing re-creations with “climber-doubles” (vs. stunt doubles) Nicholas Aaron and Brendan Mackey to re-tell the story.

Review: Having read the book (which has a name that’s suspiciously similar to that of the movie), it’s pretty amazing that Joe Simpson survives. It’s incredible, in fact. Unbelievable? Yeah, I’d go so far as to say that. What the movie adds to this is a highly visceral appreciation for just what transpired, something that no amount of words on rectangles of tree-pulp and no amount of still photos can evince. What few moments of overacting exist (keeping in mind that the actual situation is vastly beyond what most people have any ability to comprehend or relate to) are definitely overshadowed by the powerful atmosphere of the movie, which is surreally intense. This is not a casual movie. It’s compelling, well done entertainment that forces us to wonder how we define the limits of human endurance.

Rating: [••••] out of [•••••]

Etc.: Watch the trailer here, or here