Film Review by Kam Williams
Headline: Competitive Siblings Scale Peaks While Squabbling in Mountain Climbing Documentary
Thomas and Alexander Huber are both world-class mountain climbers, but otherwise polar opposites. Elder brother Thomas is very laid back and plays in a rock band when not assaulting a slope. Two years younger Alexander, on the other hand, is a physicist by day and is a relatively practical individual. So, it comes as no surprise that the latter would be a methodical planner while the former is an idealistic dreamer with a Laissez-faire attitude.
Ordinarily, this doesn’t matter much, since they lead separate lives most of the time. However, the contrast does cause conflict whenever they reunite periodically for a climbing expedition, such as the ones chronicled here scaling both Patagonia and the thousand foot-high vertical nose of El Capitan, a peak located in Yosemite National Park.
Mountains magnify the squabbling siblings’ differences because neither is content merely to reach the top of a precipice, but they also happen to be speed climbers driven to arrive there in record time. Given their distinctly different orientations, this means there’s often tension in the air between the two despite the fact that they’re involved in an undertaking where one false move could prove fatal.
To the Limit is a character-driven documentary dedicated to capturing these bickering daredevils against a variety of breathtaking backdrops.
Both their cooperation and competition was all caught on camera by fellow German Pepe Danquart, a gifted director who won an Oscar in 1994 for a short called Schwarzfahrer.
Far more memorable for its stomach-churning cinematography and for the daring exploits of the risk-taking Hubers than for the boys badinage, this is a film which might, in any other context, simply be dismissed as a case study in unresolved sibling rivalry. But when such mouthing off comes while dangling thousands of feet in the air from the face of a cliff, it makes for a fairly compelling cinematic experience.
Mountain-climbing undertaken with a manic sense of urgency.
Very Good (3 stars)
In German and English with subtitles.
Running time: 95 minutes
Studio: First Run Features
Monday, June 2, 2008