Movie Review: To The Limit

I was surfing around Netflix this weekend trying to find an instant play movie to watch. This is usually a frustrating experience that takes about half the length of time it would take to watch a movie, and then me and Melissa end up watching some drivel like Lethal Weapon 3.

But I was pretty enthused to come across ‘To the Limit,’ a German documentary about the Huber brothers’ attempt to break the speed climbing record on the Nose. Their goal was to climb the route in 2.5 hours. On their first trial run, they did it in something like 9 hours. Ah, the stage for drama is set!

Sadly, the movie only partly delivers. Thomas gets injured the first summer they attempt the climb, and then there’s a completely unnecessary sidetrack as the brothers head to Patagonia, where they hang out in tents for a long time and have very little video footage to show for an attempt to traverse the range. It really felt like the movie’s director didn’t have enough footage to make length and added this diversion.

So, the bros head back to the Valley the next summer, where they are drawing close to the record…until Alexander takes a giant whip and seems to get injured. (Side note: The giant falls these 2 take are never shown on film…why? In fact one of them is implied with slow-mo of falling rocks in a chimney for some reason.) We’re never really sure if he is injured or just a bit banged up since the movie ends there. Wait, what? Yes, it ends there, with some slackline footage and “words of wisdom” from iconic Yosemite homeless guy Chongo. Do the guys go back for another attempt? Do they succeed? Well, yes, eventually they do break the record, but the movie must’ve been set for distribution before they make it because it doesn’t even mention their success at the end. I had to go and find the info online.

So this is an imperfect documentary to be sure. But there are good parts, and I’d say even great parts. The coolest things:

1. I never knew the Huber brothers were human. I assumed they just showed up to the valley and crushed the record first-go with their mad German skills and efficiency. But through interviews you really get a sense of their personalities, rivalries, and even doubts. By the end, you’re seeing they are VERY human.

2. I had no idea what kind of belay / safety system gets used in speed climbing, and though it’s not fully explained, you get an idea of the ballsy techniques used to climb this fast. Basically, the leader’s already climbing as the second jugs up the line to the belay. Seems sketchy as hell!

3. There is some killer footage, both of landscapes and the Hubers hauling ass on the rock. The best part? The giant slow motion pendulum recorded 2000 feet off the deck. It takes like 3 major swings to nab this shitty crimper, and Alexander’s just floating out in space over the valley floor as he builds up momentum.

While I can’t give the movie glowing reviews for some of its weaknesses, I can say it’s worth watching, especially if you have Netflix and can check it out for free. It certainly held my attention for an hour and a half. Also, I woke up the next morning feeling like I had better get some exercise. The Huber brothers are probably in their 40s and they're out there making hard shit happen. It’s enough to make a person feel bad they just sat on their ass for about as long as it took the bros to climb the Nose.

The trailer:

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