From its mangled symmetry seeking story arc to its blue-eyed leading man; from its shoehorned-in love interest to its pointless sidestep into revenge plot, Vertical Limit just yodels formulaic Hollywood movie (and low-rent B-movie at that, if the presence of character support like Bill Paxton and Scott Glenn is anything to go by).
So don't spend too much time worrying about why, for instance, the rescuers decide to take gallons of highly unstable nitroglycerine explosives with them when a smaller amount of something far less likely to blow their pitons off en route would do - the volatile gunk's really only there to afford some nice big Technicolor bangs later on. And don't question the logic of the rescuers splitting up into three groups either. Is it to effect a faster and safer rescue, with efficient use of manpower? No - it's to make sure cannon fodder minor characters can be killed in interesting and colourful ways with the minimum of fuss.
Which is all well and good if your action sequences then go on to deliver the required quota of palm-sweating, people-dangling-over-chasms thrills. Trouble is, while you can't fault their quantity, Vertical Limit's stunts tend to fall a little flat in the quality department.
Now, this is partly because one or two of the major set-pieces have been somewhat sloppily edited - the absence of build up and/or even a smidgeon of aftermath affects the pacing of the most daring of doing. However, the rest of Vertical Limit's failure to excite is down to the fact that, no matter how much time, effort and location shooting the film-makers claim to have put in, it still looks like they spent most of their time on a polystyrene rock-filled sound stage.
All those impressive and beautiful National Geographic shots of snow and mountains mean nothing when - as soon as a bit of action rough and tumble is called for - over the horizon comes clomping a Himalayas' worth of paint-heavy matte work, blurry CGI and chunkily over-dressed sets. It's difficult to get yourself all worked up about the possibility of Chris O'Donnell falling to his doom at the best of times. It's not helped when the film-makers have gone to negligible effort to disguise the fact that he's really just hanging from a wire a few feet above a heavily padded studio floor.
And that's Vertical Limit's big problem: the only thing they've clearly not bothered to suspend is disbelief.
With its handful of good moments buried under an avalanche of drab and shoddy nonsense, it would take far more star power than O'Donnell has on offer to rescue Vertical Limit. Not as bad as Cliffhanger, true - but then that's not really high praise, is it?