Vertige (High Lane): Movie Review

vertige-movie-poster-2008-1020488809Vertige (High Lane) is a French film about five-long time friends – thrill seeker Fred (Nicolas Giraud), his girlfriend Karine (Maud Wyler), depressed nurse Chloe (Fanny Valette), her ex-boyfriend Guillaume (Raphael Lenglet) and her current boyfriend Loic (Johan Liberau), who embark on a mountain climbing adventure in Croatia to take their friend Chloe’s mind off an incident at work. However, they get more than what they bargained for when they discover that on top of surviving the dangerous trail, they must also get past a psycho living in the mountain, whose main purpose is to hunt and kill trespassers.

From the get go, Vertige showed a lot of promise as it started off as an adventure/survival film. The first part of the movie had me on the edge of my seat, as the friends encounter one mishap after another, the next one being more dangerous and suspenseful than the one before. The first 30 minutes or so of the film is surely not for the faint of heart.

One of the film’s strengths is its success in establishing the relationships of the characters from the beginning – the love triangle, the friendship so audiences understand the motivations for their actions as the film moved forward.

Loic, not exactly an outdoorsman, stuck out like a sore thumb in the group no matter how hard the others tried to help him and include him, but this was understandable because of his obvious jealousy with Guillaume. Still, he was a whiny wimp who had no lick of sense because he basically did not understand the concept of mountain climbing and the dangers that went with it if one was not careful. His agreement to go on a mountaineering venture when he was clearly acrophobic perplexed me to no end. As a result, he immediately became my most hated character, while Fred wowed me with his great rock climbing and easygoing personality.

Props to director Abel Ferry and his crew for the excellent cinematography. The great scenery helped audiences appreciate the beauty of the outdoors and at the same time establish the dangers of climbing as a hobby or as a sport.

Things took a weird turn when the survival film suddenly shifted into a horror film a la Wrong Turn or The Hills Have Eyes. While it had its suspenseful moments and was on track in its pacing, revealing the traps set out by the deranged Anton, I felt like there was nothing new in the presentation and there wasn’t much to get excited about. There weren’t much clue about the villains’ motivations and Chloe’s flashbacks just popped out in weird segments of the movie. Except for that one scene with the boy, being played over and over again, there wasn’t much explanation behind the incident.

It also seemed unbelievable that even when the survivors joined forces, their efforts never seemed to be enough to take on the villain when he was clearly not a mutant but a regular person, psychotic, yes, but just a person. Go figure.
In all fairness, the movie attempted to provide closure in the end by wrapping up the movie with texts about Anton’s possible origins and relating the incident to over 3,000 mysterious disappearances in the Balkans. I don’t think it worked out as well as the filmmakers expected.

All in all, Vertige was a passable movie as it stands but it would have been better if it stuck with the earlier premise of being a survival movie plain and simple. There was a great attempt to take the action further by adding a crazed villain to the mix but in my opinion, it took away from the gains already set in place by the first part of the movie, which was the coolest part. Also, it was a shame because my favorite characters were the first to go, leaving me unsympathetic to the fate of the remaining survivors halfway through. Unfortunately, instead of fulfilling its potential as an outstanding survival movie, it reduced itself to a formulaic horror flick.