Monday, October 29, 2018

Film Review: A Lonely Place to Die

Climbing is used so poorly in so many films, it often makes me nervous to hear that it was used in a given storyline. Think big climbing moves like Vertical Limit or Cliffhanger. But also think smaller films where climbing is used for a few scenes, like Mission Impossible II or Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. Inevitably, both genres of films are flops when it comes to climbing.  The weakness in the climbing sequences make the whole films hard to watch.

But then again, every now and then a movie comes around that gets climbing right...or at least a little bit right. Thus was the case for the British film, A Lonely Place to Die.

A group of intrepid mountain climbers travel up to a remote part of the Scottish Highlands in order to attempt a series of technical climbs during their vacation.  While approaching a climb through the woods, the team hears a faint voice.  They follow the voice to a black pipe sticking up out of the ground. And this is where the movie devolves from a your standard "climber-falls-and-dies-injuring-another-climber's-psyche-for-life" climbing film.

 It quickly becomes clear that someone -- a child -- has been buried alive and that the pipe is her only means of air. The team of climbers quickly dig up the the person buried only to discover that it is a young girl who has been kidnapped and is being held for ransom. The remainder of the movie follows the climbers as they try to save the girl from gun-toting madmen who don't care who they kill as long as they get their ransom money.

There are some strange climbing scenes and cliches in the film.  The climbers don't appear to be very versed in anchor building, redundancy or the use of locking carabiners.  This leads to at least one near-miss (a very strange one at that) and another accident that results in a fatality. Though later in the movie we discover that the second incident wasn't necessarily an accident. And speaking of strange cliches, there is a moment where a woman must rappel off the end of her rope and traverse to a ledge, hundreds of feet off the deck...

The thing is that these weird sequences are so minor that they don't really harm the storyline.  I'm sure those of you that are sailors or police officers see these kinds of minor things in film all the time, but because they are not egregious, it's easy to suspend disbelief.  Something that cannot be done for some of the glossier blockbuster-style climbing movies.

A Lonely Place to die is actually quite a good action movie style ride. The climbers simply are in the wrong place at the wrong time and this puts them into the middle of a violent conflict.  The climbers don't just turn into action movie stars, they turn into victims.  Their climbing skills provide little comfort when it comes to men with guns, and this gives the whole film a somewhat realistic feel.  Climbers are not super-people, instead they are normal people with unusual interests.  Such interests may make them hardy in the woods, but don't make them anything special against hardened criminals.

Action movies tend to be a very generic form of entertainment. A Lonely Place to Die does have some moments that have that generic feel, but for the most part it travels new ground in both the climbing and the action genre...

--Jason D. Martin


---- said...

Adolfo here in Patagonia. Does anyone know where is that cliff is? Does it have a name? looks kike a good climb.

Seth Pettit, Mojave Guides said...

One of my all time favorites. If you play the drinking game where you drink every time you see something ridiculous, you may be intoxicated in about ten minutes... and then it turns into a horror film! Totally Awesome.

Seth Pettit, Owner, Mojave Guides