Drama/Suspense | Saban Films | 115m | Rated: R
Written and Directed By: Julian Gilbey
Starring: Freddie Thorp, Michel Biel, Mathilde Warnier, Hanna New, Ryan Phillippe, Théo Christine
Synopsis: A group of skilled climbers go on an expedition to Switzerland in an attempt to scale a trio of challenging mountains. But when a storm rolls in and one of the climbers gets injured, they will be stranded near the summit with only their sheer will and each other to rely on for survival.
Mountain movies can vary in quality but one thing they frequently provide is clammy palmed moments of suspense at dizzying heights. One thing that can make or break a film in this subgenre is its balance of digital and practical effects. I wasn’t sure what to expect with this movie. Honestly, I didn’t even watch the trailer for it. The poster alone with a climber dangling from a cliff was enough for me to see what this movie could do. So, the marketing plan was effective. Fortunately, my choice paid off because only a couple of minutes into Summit Fever it was clear the intention of this film was to pull the viewer up onto the mountains with these characters. This was a mountain movie that takes place on the mountains, not in a studio and it was impressive.
This film is filled with stunning aerial shots of landscapes that are as beautiful as they are terrifying because you can actually see these climbers on cliff faces no human should sanely put themselves on. The use of real mountaineers and awesome camerawork result in a stream of anxiety inducing moments that create waves of delightfully uneasiness. And to their credit the cast clearly put in the effort, you get to see them up in these climates and it’s naturally much more engaging as the story progresses. Which overall does keep a good flow of quieter spots of storytelling and character development, cut with adrenaline pumping climbing sequences that capture the techniques of mountain climbing and the bravery needed to conquer mother nature’s most rugged climates.
It’s subtle but I think it helps build an understanding of these characters. The harrowing situations these characters put themselves in is without question of their own choosing. So, the story does capture the passion a person has to have for climbing. Those who are happiest thousands of feet up on a mountain are just wired differently. Summit Fever is able to capture the bond climbers have with this sport and this understanding does help build a connection to them to make you care about what happens to them as they venture to staggering altitudes.
Admittedly the story does take its time to evolve. I think the pacing could’ve been a bit tighter because spots of the middle act do feel slow as it trudges through rather typical character dynamics. I do think the cast is able to elevate the material a bit to give it a natural feel. The plot structure and its template are familiar. Yet charming performances from Freddie Thorp and Mathilde Warnier do give appeal to a generic romance subplot. And the same would go for Michel Biel whose charisma is appealing. His character JP is the best friend of Michael (Thorp) and their banter and comradery nicely weaves that passion for climbing a person can have. It’s something you truly love, and they deliver that message sincerely. No one really steals the show, some of the dialogue is a bit on-the-nose as well, but nothing that gets in the way of the compelling intensity that ramps up each time the settings head back to the mountains.
Luckily the movie spends most of its time at astonishing heights and that is when this film is at its best. The direction is fantastic overall. You can feel yourself in the middle of these suspenseful situations and that’s when you can easily lose yourself in this movie. I know I did say that there was a familiar structure to this movie, but there’s a bit of unpredictability to it as well as it’s hard to center in on which characters will make it out of this movie alive. And while the story may not reinvent the wheel, it’s more than effective in capturing your imagination with a buffet of visual appeal that will make you wish your chair had a seat belt.
Anthony J. Digioia II © 2022 SilverScreen Analysis. All Rights Reserved.