BUY FROM AMAZON: CLICK HERE!
STUDIO: Sony Pictures
RUNNING TIME: 89 minutes
• Subtitles! Previews!
It’s like ‘Blind Fury’ if you replace Rutger Hauer with Tom Cruise and the kung fu with the biggest fucking mountain in the world. Even better, it’s all true!
Starring Peter Facinelli, Bruce Campbell, Kate Greenhouse and Sarah Manninen
Written by: Peter Silverman, based on the autobiography by Erik Weihenmayer
Directed by: Peter Winther (that’s a whole lot of Peters, isn’t it?)
A safe and tame made for television movie, ‘Touch the Top of the World’ is much like its blind protagonist: ever feeling, never quite knowing if the next step will send it tail-spinning into oblivion. The story fails the idea, which is a shame because if any story deserved a better shake, it’s this one.
Made For TV Movie. It’s a loaded phrase. It’s not quite as bad (and sometimes charming) as a ‘direct to video’ release, but it just doesn’t have the chops to make it onto the big screen. Some are perhaps too long, a mini-series for instance, but most simply exist in a plane of mediocrity and good intentions. I have no doubt that ‘Touch the Top of the World’ had the best of intentions when it was conceptualized, but like one of the many climbers attempting the ‘villain’ in the movie: Mount Everest, the film strives greatly but fails before it makes it to the top.
I think it’s unfair to make a movie about a blind guy, especially one who is quite inspiring. I mean, how will other blind people ever know? But I digress. Erik Weihenmayer (played Peter Facinelli) was not born blind, he has a rare condition that slowly sapped his sight, rendering him totally blind by the time he was a teenager. But, he has more ambition with no eyes than I do with two. He refuses to back down, and helped by his parents, Bruce Campbell and Kate Greenhouse becomes adept at mountain climbing (which for the record, is one of the dumbest things I can think to do without sight), a teacher, gets married, has a kid and all that good stuff. Go Erik indeed.
But if I told you nothing else, that would be enough. See, there’s little conflict to be had in ‘Touch the Top of the World’, there is the illusion of conflict; I won’t claim that climbing Everest with sight is a walk in the park, but even his climb is fraught with ease. Whether it’s getting interested in climbing, becoming a wrestler and even climbing Everest, nearly everything in Erik’s life is given to him. There’s no drama. One moment, a man walks in and says ‘Hey, want to be a wrestler?’ the next, he’s wrestling. Another man goes ‘Hey, want to climb Everest?’ and what do you know, he’s climbing Everest. Erik is a smart guy, but he seems unmotivated, only ever reacting to the events and people around him. Excepting his sight, Erik does little changing throughout the film, starting as ‘blind guy’ and ending as ‘blind guy who climbed Mount Everest’.
Facinelli, who one day will play Tom Cruise in the Tom Cruise biopic, shoulders the film. He’s charming, handsome and brings in a good performance despite having limited use of his eyes, which are often wide and unblinking. You never realize how much eyes matter in acting until you no longer can use them normally. He also happens to be the only one who make any connection to (besides Bruce Campbell, of course). So when we cut back and forth to the scenes on the mountain, in which Erik is looking back on his life while attempting to summit, we can only ever be sure of who Erik is, as his friends and climbing crew are a mass of beards, jackets and hoods, indistinguishable; each given a complimentary scene with Erik before the mountain and then shuttled off. Bruce Campbell is criminally underrepresented and slays it each and every moment by sheer force of will alone.
The dialogue does no one any favors. ‘I have to do this not to prove a point, but to do it for myself’ and similar lines are uttered by Erik and his crew, talking as if every conversation were the end of the world. The framing device used, flashbacking to life before the mountain, is safe but the only one that could be effective without it being 40 unbroken minutes of hairy dudes on a mountain. A tact which, if taken, I would give the creators credit for doing.
There is literally no way this movie could not move you in some way. Oh, the movie itself doesn’t do it, it’s too rote and by the numbers, it’s the idea of the story that will touch you. A blind guy climbs Mount Everest, how you do not find inspiration (or humiliation by your lack of physical activity) is beyond me. It’s a perfect recipe, a fail-proof source of advertising revenue. What does it matter that the camera is average, the script is average and most of the acting is average? What matters is that a blind guy climbed Mount-fucking-Everest! No one alive would tell you that’s a bad story. No one.
The DVD case boasts breathtaking cinematography. Yes and no. It’s shot like a TV movie, very flat and very static. The ‘breathtaking’ portion comes when they’re on the mountain because it is extremely hard to fuck up making a mountain, let alone Everest, look beautiful. Soundwise, the film is mixed decently enough, though I would have preferred to have heard how Erik hears the world.
The disc comes with no special features save for French and English subtitles and a few previews best left forgotten.