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Blu-ray Review: Cliffhanger

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In 1993 Cliffhanger was seen as a return for Sylvester Stallone. After a string of movies that underperformed at the box office, Cliffhanger was his first American hit in several years. Stallone plays Gabe Walker, a mountain rescue ranger, who is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder after a failed rescue. Walker has vowed to never make a rescue attempt again, but has returned to the mountain base he one worked at for a visit. Walker is a perfect candidate to be forced by circumstance back into his old job.

And forced he is, by all around bad guy Eric Qualen (John Lithgow). Qualen has organized a highly improbably, but highly entertaining, mid-air theft of 100 million dollars. Of course the heist goes wrong and the suitcases of money, and the plane, end up spread across the Rocky Mountains. To the rescue is rescue ranger Hal Tucker, who has a severe grudge against Walker. Tucker is soon captured and Walker’s ex-girlfriend, Jessie (who is also a rescue ranger), persuades Walker to help. What ensues is a thrilling cat and mouse game between the bad guys and the good guys.

Cliffhanger has one of the most thrilling opening sequences of all time. It hooks you right into the movie, and really doesn’t let you go until the end. Lithgow is excellent as bad guy Qualen. Yes, his performance is over the top, but it’s a good over the top. He takes his role wholeheartedly, and delivers his lines with an unflinching iciness, that would suit any great movie villain. The story is predictable, but it doesn’t matter, because the movie is just an entertaining action thriller that is meant to be fun to watch, which it is. The action set pieces are spectacular, there is a lot of good natured humor, and Stallone brings just the right amount of intensity to keep everyone watching.

The Blu-ray HD transfer is pretty good. The movie itself was beautifully shot in the Swiss Alps, and on BD the scenery looks great. At times there is a bit of a grainy image, and the colors are not quite as bright as they could be. But overall the HD presentation is very good. The sound is delivered on DTS-HD 5.1, and is excellent. The action sequences pop, and have a you-are-there feel.

Most of the features on this Blu-ray come from the Cliffhanger Collector’s Edition DVD. There commentary from Stallone and director Renny Harlin, along with a separate commentary from members of the technical crew. There are also deleted scenes, several making of featurettes, and storyboard comparison. The only Blu-ray exclusive is an HD theatrical trailer, and BD Live.

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About Sherry Lipp

Sherry Lipp is an entertainment and food writer who specializes in film and television reviews. She has published the gluten and grain-free cookbook Don't Skip Dessert.