Two mountaineering buddies hit catastrophe when one breaks his leg near the top of a remote Peruvian mountain. The other tries to lower his partner to safety, but disaster strikes again when the injured party is dangled over a 150-foot ice cliff. Does the healthy climber allow himself to be dragged to his death, or cut the rope and send his doomed friend spiralling into the void?
Following several abortive attempts to transfer Joe Simpson's mountaineering bestseller to the screen (at one point Tom Cruise was attached to star), Touching The Void finally makes its appearance in docudrama format, with British Oscar-winner Kevin Macdonald (One Day In September) behind the camera.
It's not difficult to see why Hollywood screenwriters struggled with Simpson's story of disaster and endurance on Peru's forbidding Siula Grande peak. The protagonists barely speak to each other and, aside from two perilous falls, there's little in the way of traditional action.
However, Macdonald overcomes this headache by blending interviews with the survivors into his well-crafted reconstruction, and the result is as much an exploration of ethics and psychology as it is of uncommon human endurance.
Though it takes a while to empathise with these curiously detached characters, the internal tension of the climbing psyche ultimately proves as gripping as the physical horror suffered on the mountain.
A slow starter which builds into a chilling depiction of the agonising disintegration of body and mind as they are exposed to the elements.