RENNY HARLIN’S CLIFFHANGER — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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I can remember my father taking me to the cinema on opening weekend to see Cliffhanger back in the summer of 1993. I was 12 years old, and as one might imagine, totally blown away by what I witnessed. Other than Terminator 2, I don’t think I had ever seen an action picture as elaborate as Cliffhanger on the big screen at that point in my life, so it was very easy to be totally consumed and then become obsessed with this totally thrilling action picture. Directed with extreme intensity by action maestro Renny Harlin and lavishly photographed in glorious 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen by the late, great Alex Thomson, the film would become a massive blockbuster for superstar Sylvester Stallone, who delivered one of his better action movie performances in this chilly, violent, over the top spectacle. Crafted in the final moments of the pre-CGI onslaught that awaited most major action films, this is one of the most believably realized mountain climbing films, even if purists have long claimed numerous technical inaccuracies with the mountaineering sequences. But regardless, there is a stunning level of beauty in so many individual shots, John Lithgow gave a sensational turn as a truly evil villain, and the supporting cast of 90’s familiar faces was packed to the gills, featuring Janine Turner, Michael Rooker, Paul Winfield, Rex Linn, Craig Fairbrass, Leon Robinson, Denis Forest, Ralph Waite, Max Perlich, and Bruce McGill. Seriously – that cast is just ridiculous. The rousing musical score by Trevor Jones hit all of the heroically triumphant notes that one would expect from an actioner such as this, and Frank J. Urioste’s judicious editing kept a fast moving pace, never allowing the story’s momentum to slow for a moment. I’ve always loved this film as it has an R-rated integrity that feels mostly lost these days, with Stallone delivering a hugely sympathetic performance, even hitting some dramatic grace notes in the first act. Thankfully, no sequel or remake has been attempted. This one still holds up as supreme entertainment for the genre.

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