Touching the Void



Excruciatingly tense story of a terrible accident.
  • Review Date: June 15, 2004
  • Rated: NR
  • Genre: Documentary
  • Release Year: 2004
  • Running Time: 106 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages
Not applicable

Extreme peril, exceptionally tense danger.

Not applicable

Some strong language.

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Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this movie is extremely tense, with characters in the direst peril imaginable. They use some very strong language, completely understandable in the circumstances.

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What's the story?

TOUCHING THE VOID tells the true story of 20-somethings Joe Simpson and Simon Yates, who set out to be the first climbers ever to climb the west face of the 21,000-foot Siula Grande in the Andes. They make it to the top, but on the way down Simpson falls and shatters his leg. Yates risks his own life to help Simpson descend, lowering him 150 feet at a time with a rope holding them together. But when Simpson falls again and Yates can't see or hear him, the rope that connected them was pulling Yates to certain death. Yates, believing Simpson must be dead, cuts the rope. He searches for Simpson with no luck and barely makes it back to base camp. Meanwhile, over the next four days Simpson faces certain death but refuses to give up. Simpson fell into a 150-foot crevasse. By going down further into the crevasse instead of trying to climb out of it, he manages to escape. Facing a series of obstacles that would challenge a mythological hero, Simpson perseveres. Even when he accepts that death was inevitable, he still kept going because "I didn't want to die alone." At times angry, terrified, and delirious, he keeps trying anything and everything he could think of to get back home.

Is it any good?


Director Kevin Macdonald lets Simpson, Yates, and Richard Hawking, who was waiting for them at base camp, tell the story in understated British style, as two actor/climbers re-enact the story on the actual site. Incredibly, Yates and Simpson returned to the Andes for the filming and put on their gear and performed some of the re-enactments themselves. Their story is gripping and, in their perseverance and dedication, deeply moving. Simpson's first comment when he sees Yates is as heart-wrenching as any of his struggles. Their candid but matter-of-fact delivery is far more effective than any actor could muster.

Macdonald reaches his own summit with an electrifyingly thrilling movie that makes the mountain more than a setting, almost another character in the story. The sheerness of the slope, the friable "meringues" and "cornices" of snow, the sweep and sparkle of the ice -- the mountain's terrible beauty is alternately austere, majestic, implacable, ominous, and menacing.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about Simpson's statement that the important thing was to act, even if the decision was the wrong one. What made Simpson refuse to give up?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:January 23, 2004
DVD release date:June 15, 2004
Cast:Brendan Mackey, Nicholas Aaron, Simon Yates
Director:Kevin Macdonald
Studio:IFC Entertainment
Run time:106 minutes
MPAA rating:NR

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