Luck is the understatement of the century. In the amazing true story told in Touching the Void, it is proven that real life can be even more harrowing and exciting than anything Hollywood dishes out.
Touching the Void is a documentary by Kevin Macdonald, who has blended interviews and reenactments to create a truly frightening, suspenseful and beautiful film. The movie is about two climbers, Joe Simpson and Simon Yates, who successfully become the first men to climb the difficult west face of Siula Grande in the Andes. Their return trip isn't nearly as pleasant. On descent, Simpson slips and badly breaks his leg. Unable to climb, let alone walk, Yates begins to slide him down the steep slopes with rope - that is, until Simpson is dropped over the side of a vertical cliff and left hanging. With his energy fading, Yates decides that the only way to survive is to cut the rope - and he does. Simpson falls over a hundred feet directly into a crevice, but, amazingly, does not die. This is his survival story.
Based on Simpson's book of the same title, this movie can only be regarded as extremely accurate and detailed - it is so extraordinary that it is hard to imagine any bit of it being exaggerated. What are the chances of falling into a crevice with a broken leg, being left for dead and then single-handedly climbing out and dragging yourself for miles along a hazardous glacier? Well, they aren't good, that's for sure. This is an incredible story.
As far as the movie goes, most of it is a fairly straightforward documentary, something that is almost disappointingly not shot with IMAX film. The shots on the mountain are beautiful as well as ambitious; it feels as though there was a cameraman following the real thing when it happened. The reenactment (performed by Brendan Mackey and Nicholas Aaron, as Joe and Simon respectively) is as realistic as it can be. The narration by Simpson and Yates adds the needed insight.
The only questionable aspect of the film is the depiction of Simpson's craziness toward the end of the movie. Obviously, after being left for dead and having to drag yourself for miles without food or water, Simpson begins to go off his rocker a bit. Macdonald decides to portray this via camera tricks and sound effects, which do result in a psychedelic feel but not necessarily one that works in a documentary. The real Simpson's narration is enough to describe what he is going through; much of the zany film tricks seem a bit overdone. Nevertheless, in the scheme of things, they are fairly minor.
Touching the Void is a movie that anyone who likes the outdoors should see; it is a true tale of survival that should not be missed.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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