Touching the Void

Touching the Void is a gripping docudrama of the mountaineering trek gone awry of Simon Yates and Joe Simpson, who breaks his leg while climbing in the Andes.  In 1985, they ascended a 20,000 foot peak in the Peruvian Andes, the never-before conquered west face of Siula Grande.  On descent, Joe shattered his leg, and what followed for the two men quickly spiraled into a nightmare chain of events.  This is a well re-created story about two men’s quest for survival in the greatest non-fictional feat of endurance that I have ever heard of.  It is a sort of documentary / docudrama hybrid providing a mixture of documentary footage and re-enactments that combines extremely realistic recreated footage with brutally honest narration and interviews to re-enact this thrilling tale.  One man admits to thinking he kind of wished this friend would slip off the mountain so he could get off without having to deal with it, while the new friend back at camp admits he hoped Simon was the one who wasn’t injured.  And the best thing about it is that there is not a drop of Hollywood anywhere near this film.  The director Kevin MacDonald has uncooperative subjects who clearly don’t want to return to the traumatic scene and admit they are not really friends.  He had no experience in mountaineering films, faced terrible storms, and for the reenacted climbing scenes had actors doubling the men in dangerous conditions in the Andes and Alps.  If you are a fan of men/women pitting themselves against nature, this story of survival against all odds will leave an indelible impression.  Worth the watch to see how they manage to get themselves out of a very, very awful jam.  Visually beautiful.  Great reenactments.  This is likely the best mountain climbing film ever made, and certainly one of the very best documentaries I’ve seen.  The movie is a “must see”, along with the four excellent Special Features, that add even more insights into the drama.  It’s based on the best-selling book that Simpson wrote.  The film won the BAFTA award for best British film of 2004.  Docudrama 2003 R 1hr 46m.  (The director Kevin MacDonald won an Oscar in 2000 for “One Day in September”, and directed Forest Whitaker in “Last King of Scotland in 2006.)

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