The 4,000-foot death fall that John Harlin III's father took on the treacherous north face of Switzerland's Eiger mountain 40 years ago is central to the poignancy of the latest Imax release, "The Alps."
This is a film whose story is framed by tragedy and the haunting human obsession that followed it. And that's what makes its stunning and highly vertiginous visuals all the more dramatic and relevant to the nonclimber. In "Alps," it is clear that the sins of the father are visited upon the son.
In this case, that child is also the film's central character -- John Harlin III, who was 9 when his father's rope broke on the slippery north-face approach that he was trailblazing on the Eiger -- long considered the most difficult mountain ascent in the Alps. That misfortune triggered the younger Harlin's need to climb the Eiger and finish what his father could not.
"Alps" writers Stephen Venables and Mark Krenzien were smart to let the audience fear the dangers of climbing by seeing the interjection of some pretty dicey moments of peril. "Alps" is tailor-made for the widescreen Imax format; the use of helicopter photography and mountaineering crews for filming does justice to Harlin's monumental feat. You can just feel the relief of his family when he radios in that he's made it to the summit and, unlike his father, will be heading home. (Not rated.)