ChildCare Action Project (CAP): Christian Analysis of American Culture


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Entertainment Media Analysis Report
A service to parents and grandparents

Vertical Limit (2000), (PG-13)
CAP Score: 53
CAP Influence Density: 0.91

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ALERT: To fully understand this report you should first visit the topics suggested by the CAP Table of Contents.

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NOTE: The CAP Analysis Model makes no scoring allowances for trumped-up "messages" to excuse or for manufacturing of justification for aberrant behavior or imagery, or for camouflaging such ignominy with "redeeming" programming. Disguising sinful behavior in a theme plot does not excuse the sinful behavior of either the one who is drawing pleasure from the sinful display or the practitioners demonstrating the sinful behavior. This is NOT a movie review service. It is a movie analysis service to parents and grandparents to tell them the truth about movies using the Truth. If you do not want the plot, ending, or "secrets" of a movie spoiled for you, skip the Summary/Commentary. In any case, be sure to visit the Findings/Scoring section -- it is purely objective and is the heart of the CAP Entertainment Media Analysis Model applied to this movie

"There are some in the entertainment industry who maintain that 1) violent programming is harmless because no studies exist that prove a connection between violent entertainment and aggressive behavior in children, and 2) young people know that television, movies, and video games are simply fantasy. Unfortunately, they are wrong on both accounts." [Emphasis is mine] And "Viewing violence may lead to real life violence." I aplaud these associations for fortifying 1 Cor. 15:33. Read the rest of the story. From our five-year study, I contend that other aberrant behaviors, attitudes, and expressions can be inserted in place of "violence" in that statement. Our Director - Child Psychology Support, a licensed psychologist and certified school psychologist concurs. For example, "Viewing arrogance against fair authority may lead to your kids defying you in real life." Or "Viewing sex may lead to sex in real life." Likewise and especially with impudence, hate and foul language. I further contend that any positive behavior can be inserted in place of "violence" with the same chance or likelihood of being a behavior template for the observer; of being incorporated into the behavior mechanics and/or coping skills of the observer. In choosing your entertainment, please consider carefully the "rest of the story" and our findings.

If Scriptural references appear, the full text appears at the end of the Summary / Commentary likely using a mix of KJV and NIV.


VERTICAL LIMIT (PG-13) -- who lives and who dies?

Vertical Limit is a heavy presentation of the profoundly invasive question that no one should have to answer -- who lives and who dies? Decisions such as this are found throughout Vertical Limit like salt on popcorn. Why not present such a topic to early teens and preteens for contemplation as they wait for sleep to come, while having breakfast, while waiting for the bus.......? Many school systems apparently use such a scenario in death and dying classes and even math classes. Early teens and preteens all possess an adequate magnitude of life experiences and wisdom, don't they? Well!? Don't they!? School systems seem to think so. If the schools think such high-order thinking is okay for preteens and early teens, it must be okay. Right?

The story begins with such a decision. A father/daughter/son climbing team, the Garrett family, experience an indeed rare sequence of events. A "rookie" team of climbers above the Garrett team on a sheer, vertical rock face mountain wall drops one of their packs which threatens to knock the Garrett family loose. Then the rookie team comes screaming down. The rookie team is tethered together and the tether served to snag the Garrett family. Though the father had wisely anchored the family team, only one anchor survived the weight of the three Garretts PLUS two of the rookie team now hanging onto the Garrett family: the daughter, Annie (Robin Tunney) first in the string then the son, Peter (Chris O'Donnell) hanging from her, the father from him and the two rookies hanging from the father. Somehow the rookies are broken free of the string and plummet to their deaths, screaming and writhing all the way. And we see them falling and screaming, just not the sudden stop below. Now the lives of the entire Garrett team are depending on the one anchor, which is slipping. The father, not having a knife and knowing the chances of the anchor surviving are better without his weight, commands Peter to cut the rope. In a sequence of gut-wrenching emotions Peter finally cuts the rope, leaving him and Annie to fend for themselves as their father falls to his death. And we see it. His death. The camera breaks away from the Garretts and focuses on a patch of ground below for a couple seconds from eye-level about six feet away. Then suddenly with sickeningly realistic speed of fall and thud the father hits the ground motionless. His body fills the focal field of the camera while the audience digests what has happened. And by the reaction of the audience to the realism of this programming, whatever it was they had digested for lunch was threatening to launch. As the years pass, Peter and Annie go their separate ways but never leave climbing, he to photography and she to world-class mountaineering. Annie never fully believes that Peter had done the right thing by cutting their father loose: that Peter did not have the right to make the decision who lives and who dies.

This is the basic thrust of Vertical Limit -- making decisions of who lives and who dies. Millionaire airline owner Elliot Vaughn (Bill Paxton - Twister), trying to get to the top of K-2 to be there when the inaugural flight of his new airline passes overhead, made such a decision four years earlier about the wife of recluse climber Montgomery Wick (Scott Glenn). Vaughn also made that decision about Tom McLaren (Nicholas Lea) and would have made that decision about Annie if it were not for Wick and Peter and another whose name I do not remember. McLaren, Annie and Vaughn of the Vaughn ascention group were trapped in an ice cave after a storm-generated avalanche. As it turns out, Wick makes the "who lives, who dies" decision for himself and Vaughn.

By the way, "vertical limit" is apparently the maximum altitude the human lungs can operate for extended periods without failure; 24,000 feet in the movie.

This movie follows a deepening trend of PG-13 ("R-13") and shows you and your 13 year old kids (and younger if you take them or let them go) what the nude body looks like -- full male angled frontal nudity -- of two males [Rev. 3:18; 1John 2:16]. Having worked with child protective services for a number of years I can tell you an adult male would spend time in jail if he exposed himself like that to kids in the real world. But weren't the two actors who stripped for that scene real? Wasn't the filming set real? Didd they not know there would be adolescents in the audience? Maybe YOU can tell me where is the truth in this "art?" Also, note that the MPAA rated this flick PG-13 for "intense life-death situations" and "brief strong language." Not a word about the nudity. And the actors were nude -- there is no arguing it. So, who sez the entertainment industry does not shape our culture?

Additional programming which may and should raise the parent's eyebrow includes much potty-mouth language [Col. 3:8] including the most foul of the foul words and God's name in vain both with and without the four letter expletive [Deut. 5:11] and drinking and drunkenness [1Pet. 4:3; Gal. 5:21]. But quintessential throughout the movie was so much violent invasion of the senses [Phil. 4:8; Luke 17:2]. Many near-fatal falls and dangers of falls, extreme urgency, disaster perils and visually graphic deaths. A complete listing of the findings is provided on Findings/Scoring below.


  • 1 Cor. 15:33 (KJV) Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners. (NIV) Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character.
  • Rev. 3:18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.
  • 1John 2:16 For everything in the world -the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does -comes not from the Father but from the world.
  • Col. 3:8 But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.
  • Deut. 5:11 Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain: for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
  • 1Pet. 4:3 For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do -living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry.
  • Gal. 5:21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
  • Phil. 4:8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
  • Luke 17:2 It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.


    Please be sure to get the full truth about this movie by reading the Findings/Scoring below.

    FINDINGS / SCORING: Vertical Limit (2000) CAP Thermometers

    NOTE: Multiple occurrences of each item described below may be likely, definitely when plural.

    Wanton Violence/Crime (W):
  • fall deaths seeing and hearing the victims fall
  • great falls
  • imagery of extreme urgency -- father telling son to cut the rope, an act which would kill the father
  • graphic and very detailed imagery of falling body impacting ground
  • armed military installation with large bore cannonfire
  • cascading fall (a fall causing others to fall)
  • disaster peril -- avalanche
  • multiple avalanche deaths
  • long sequences of peril
  • many graphic fall risks and near falls
  • explosion injuries
  • two explosion deaths -- graphic
  • frozen body
  • planning murder
  • many who lives, who dies decisions
  • using dead man's blood as a signal dye
  • fight as attempted murder

    Impudence/Hate (I)(1):
  • open urinating
  • vulgar gesture
  • 15 uses of the three/four letter word vocabulary
  • one use of the most foul of the foul words

    Sex/Homosexuality (S):
  • camera angle to focus viewer on private parts
  • dual male nudity, full male angled frontal nudity
  • vulgar, sex talk
  • homosexual kiss
  • admission of immoral sex

    Drugs/Alcohol (D):
  • drinking
  • drunkenness
  • revelry
  • smoking

    Offense to God (O)(2):
  • two uses of God's name in vain with the four letter expletive and two uses without

    Murder/Suicide (M)(3):
  • graphic murder by stabbing/choking
  • murder/suicide combo

  • (1) As noted in CAP Special Report-001, "Investigation Area and Scoring Trend," of the six CAP Investigation Areas, Impudence/Hate was the strongest presence in all four movie classifications. It has a strong revelation about the entertainment media.

    (2) The use of the three/four letter word vocabulary without God's name in vain is incorporated into the Impudence/Hate Investigation Area. The use of God's name with or without the four letter expletive is incorporated into the Offense to God Investigation Area. There is no duplication.

    (3) Only portrayal of successful murder or suicide are incorporated into Murder/Suicide. Portrayal of attempts to commit murder or suicide and deaths by police action or war are incorporated into Wanton Violence/Crime.

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    ChildCare Action Project (CAP): Christian Analysis of American Culture

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