In Touching the Void, director Kevin McDonald ("One Day in September") tells Joe Simpson's compelling story by combining talking-head interviews with Simpson and Yates, and stunningly photographed narrative footage, in which Simpson and Yates' ordeal is actually re-enacted on the Peruvian Siula Grande. McDonald's footage is both engrossing and eye-popping; it could easily stand alone as its own one-of-a-kind adventure film. The interviews, however, add depth to the film and make Touching The Void a unique, thrilling, and emotional piece of cinema.
A gripping, harrowing true-life story told with real skill, Touching The Void is one of the finest documentaries of recent years. It mixes in recreations of real life events with interviews, building up a head of tension that makes it hard to turn your eyes away from.
The story itself centres on two British mountain climbers by the name of Joe Simpson and Simon Yates. They head off to the Andes to climb Siula Grande, yet some way into the expedition, Joe Simpson falls and breaks his leg. At this stage hes still attached to the support rope of Simon Yates, who struggles to bear his weight, and faces an impossible choice between continuing to hang on and face certain death, or cutting the rope and sending his friend plummeting down the side of the mountain.
Not only is this an extraordinary story, but its one that Touching The Void tells exceptionally well, with a focus and skill that rightly attracted the interest of award-givers. That those involved in the real-life adventure are telling you the story adds a real weight to the film, and director Kevin Macdonald--he who was behind the Oscar-winning One Day In September--weaves it all together quite brilliantly.
An unforgettable piece of cinema for many reasons, Touching The Void is an extraordinary telling of an extraordinary tale, and one that simply demands to be seen. Do make sure you see it. --Simon Brew