I hate this kind of credibility-defying, pushed-to-the-limit thrill sequence. Harold Lloyd used to make comedies out of such situations, but Vertical Limit director Martin Campbell and screenwriters Robert King and Terry Hayes played it straight. The apparent idea was to out-do a similar opening sequence in Renny Harlin‘s Cliffhanger (’92), but it’s one CG bullshit stunt after another.
Boilerplate: Tragedy strikes a family of three — Peter Garrett (Chris O’Donnell), his sister Annie (Robin Tunney) and their father, Royce (Stuart Wilson) — as they scale a sheer cliff in Monument Valley. After two falling amateurs leave the family dangling, Royce forces Peter to cut him loose to save Peter and Annie from a horrible, howling, skull-shattering demise.
I have to admit that when the climbers whose carelessness started all the trouble…when these two fall to their deaths, it’s hard not to raise your fist and shout “yes!”
Vertical Limit opened 19 and 1/2 years ago. Call it 20. Doesn’t seem that long, does it?
O’Donnell, 29 or 30 during filming, was still recovering (at least in his own head) from Batman and Robin (’97). Even with the financial success of Vertical Limit ($215M worldwide), O’Donnell took a four-year hiatus. He returned to features in Bill Condon‘s Kinsey (’04) but was pretty much a TV guy after that. He’s now in his late 40s and starring in NCIS: Los Angeles.
Tunney was enjoying a career spurt at the time. She’s now 47, hanging in there, playing poker.