Film review: Touching the Void

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Touching the Void

You know, I don’t get it. What drives people to risk their lives hanging off cliffs by nothing but an ice axe buried in powdery snow, while three thousand feet of empty space yawns under them? After watching Touching the Void from director Kevin MacDonald, I was no closer to an answer, but I was a lot closer to complete bodily exhaustion, and I hadn’t even left my seat for the late dash for a choc-top. This visceral, uncompromising docudrama puts you through the true-life struggles of two English climbers who tackled the west face of Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes in 1985. The dramatic visuals—so well done it took me a little while to realise it wasn’t actual footage of the expedition—are strongly counterpointed by a matter-of-fact narration by the actual climbers.

I have a strange fascination with disaster stories—”I’m just going outside and I may be some time” is one of my favourite quotes—and this one doesn’t disappoint. You’ll marvel at the arrogance of two men barely in their twenties setting off up an unclimbed mountain face alpine-style (no back up and only one rope between them) with no one at base camp except a backpacker who didn’t even know their last names. But no one can deny or fail to wonder at the incredible endurance, courage and sheer bloody-mindedness that some human beings are capable of. Without doubt you’ll leave the cinema with that same old question uppermost in your minds: “what would I have done?”

4 back up plans out of 5.

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