Touching the Void

Dir: Kevin Macdonald
Star: Nicholas Aaron, Brendan Mackey, Joe Simpson, Simon Yates

Someone needs to make a film that shows the fun side of mountaineering; every movie I've seen on the topic should have been subtitled "Climbing Sucks", and left me shaking my head, wondering why they bother. In this case, Joe Simpson and Simon Yates are descending from a 21,000 foot Peruvian peak. They hit trouble when Joe breaks his leg; he's then dropped off a cliff, into a crevasse, by Simon (it's not as callous as it seems) who then climbs off the mountain to sit at base-camp (er...not quite as callous). Joe is left to crawl, with his shattered limb, out of the crevasse, down the mountain, across a glacier, and through a field of boulders. That he does, is a remarkable testament to survival instinct.

The film unfolds as a re-creation, Aaron and Mackey enacting the climb on actual mountains in the Alps and Peru, while the two participants provide voiceover narration. I do admit that watching someone inch their way painfully along does get old, but even though we know he survives, it remains remarkably gripping - Boney M's Brown Girl in the Ring will never seem the same after you've heard it ring relentlessly through Joe's head. This is another of those true stories which would be laughed out of Hollywood if presented as a script, yet unlike Seabiscuit, a straightforward approach ensures its credibility is never in doubt. Joe says he has forgiven Simon for what he did; interestingly, however, the two have not climbed together since...

Feb 2004

Mount (of) Doom
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