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I bet you are already wondering how bad this film is, and scrolling to the bottom of the review to see the score before even finishing this sentence. Surprised by the result? I know I was.

Vertical Limit - Superbit

The Film
Opening not in the snow laden slopes of a mountain range as the cover and trailer depict, but in the sun drenched rock faces a mountainous desert, fanatical climbers Peter Garrett (Chris O’Donnel – Batman and Robin) and his sister Annie Garrett (Robin Tunney – Empire Records) scale a sheer rock face with their father Royce (Stuart Wilson – The Mask of Zorro).

Now what follows is a slight plot spoiler and so I have made the text the same colour as the background so if you want to read it then just highlight the text with your mouse.
<font color="#eeeeee">This is all good and well however some rookie climbers fail to anchor themselves properly and one falls, dragging his partner with him. The falling pair collide with Royce and he is pulled from the rock face as it Peter. The family are left hanging only by Annie’s bolts. As two give way, the trio are left hanging by one bolt. None of them can reach the wall to attach more secure lines and so Royce asks to be cut free. The dilemma here is that he has no knife and Peter must cut him free to fall to his death. What a situation to be in – to kill your own father to save yourself and your sister, or to hope you can reach the wall in time so that you all *might* live. Peter cuts Royce free, who falls to his death. This event understandably causes problems between the two children since Annie was convinced they would make it together. This turns into a rift which separates the Garrett children.</font>

Vertical Limit - Superbit

Time passes and Peter turns into a wildlife photographer working for National Geographic and shuns climbing whilst Annie becomes a well respected and critically acclaimed climber, conquering great peaks. A multi millionaire (Elliot Vaughn, played by Bill Paxton) brings them back together unwittingly on the infamous K2. This mountain defeated him previously and now he is avid about reaching the peak of this snow covered natural monolith. His reasons for trying again are that of personal achievement however hs does have a distinct ulterior motive which has no doubt influenced his return - he wants to be able to wave to the passengers on his new airlines first flight as it flies over the mountain. The expedition is not led by Annie, but she is a strong climber in this adventurous team.

I am sure you can guess the rest of this film now. To be fair, a lot does happen involving the Pakistan/Indian armies, a half crazy mountain man, nitro glycerine and rescue parties which I will not go into here making this a lot more than your typical “people up a mountain rescue mission” styled film. The film does at times tend to go back to the now clichéd basics of this genre and there were a couple of cringe-worthy lines of dialogue in the script but on the whole, I was a lot more impressed than I thought I would be. The effects are reasonably however they do tend to stand out and at least once the avalanche did just look like stock footage, which it obviously was however there seemed few efforts made to hide this fact, that and the CGI eagle was also a bit of an eye sore. The opening few scenes were very good indeed and it was easy to feel for the characters in this situation. From that the rest of the movie was a bit of a let down however as I mentioned, it was still good enough to warrant an evenings entertainment.

Video
The problem with a lot of newer films on DVD is that their video presentation is often already at a high standard. Vertical Limit is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 (although it is actually closer to 1.80:1) and of course, anamorphically enhanced. For the most, the print is artefact free however there were one or two blemishes which to be fair, I doubt I would have seen if the movie had not been presented on a white snowy canvas. No visible MPEG artefacts and just a touch of grain make this a good transfer. I cannot compare it to the original release as I do not have it to hand, so bear in mind that this video presentation could be very similar to the original release.

Vertical Limit - Superbit

Sound
As well as the obligatory Dolby Digital 5.1 English soundtrack, we have the DTS 5.1 English soundtrack present on all Superbit titles. The soundtrack itself occasionally wavers at times in that dialogue is sometimes a little quiet and therefore I would recommend watching this using a slightly higher than normal volume. However when the snow starts tumbling your neighbours will think the world is coming to an end. Channel definition is for the most, above average and at times, excellent. All in all, a decent action packed soundtrack with good bass levels but occasional voices are too quiet.

Extras
Zilch!

Overall
The film was better than I was expecting which was a nice surprise. The storyline had a couple of nice extra parts to take it away from the other rescue mission type films, and the audio and video are presented nicely. The bit rate overall is an average of 7.69Mb/s which is quite high especially when the DTS soundtrack is 768kb/s of that. At the end of the film when the bit rate drops substantially, do not worry – that is just the end credits.

Bit Rate captured using DVD Bitrate viewer 1.4 - visualdomain.net

The Superbit brand is not entirely a marketing gimmick, however I see no real reason why all new films are not presented this way with the main feature on one disc and the extras present on a second disc. It pains me having to choose between a DVD with commentary tracks and extra features over what is essentially a DTS soundtrack (especially since the extra features on the original release were actually quite good!). Hopefully all production companies will move to a format similar to this, but with extra features on a separate disc.


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