Badass. This movie is simply badass. When was the last time you heard of actors filming on the side of a mountain with 100 mph winds and ice crusting on their faces? Where were you on that casting call, Ashton?
Touching the Void is based on the book of the same name by Joe Simpson. Simpson and his friend, Simon Yates, became mountaineering legends in 1985 when they set out to tackle the previously unclimbed west face of the Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes. To describe their subsequent experiences as "near death" seems somehow inadequately emphatic. The film utilizes real footage of the mountain range and real frostbite. Said director Kevin Macdonald, "My face felt like someone had rubbed it with a belt sander."
If it's any consolation, these efforts proved worthwhile. By actually simulating the hellish conditions and physical struggles of the ill-fated journey, the film truly delivers an effective documentary/drama with breathtaking footage and candid interview narration from Simpson and Yates themselves. It looks and feels authentic because, in a sense, it is. The landscape itself is, "like a world created for an expensive car commercial," said Macdonald of his stunningly beautiful and powerfully intimidating set.
The scenes of Simpson (Brendan Mackey) "going mad," shown without narration, are particularly intense, perhaps the only part of the film in which one can really get lost in the story. While Simpson and Yates' narration is undeniably engaging, at times the film would have been better off if it let the images speak for themselves.