Cliffhanger (film)

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Cliffhanger is a 1993 action action adventure film following Gabe (played by Stallone, who co-wrote the screenplay), a mountain climber who becomes embroiled in the failed heist of a U.S. Treasury plane flying through the Rocky Mountains.

Directed by Renny Harlin. Screenplay by Michael France and Sylvester Stallone; based on a concept by John Long,
Hang on. (taglines)

Eric Qualen

Don't bother to buckle up - you may not want to survive this.
Kill a few people, they call you a murderer. Kill a million and you're a conqueror.
Do you know what real love is, Kristel?
  • Don't bother to buckle up - you may not want to survive this.
  • Kill a few people, they call you a murderer. Kill a million and you're a conqueror.


But in a minute I'll be dead, and you, will always be an asshole.
Suits, socks, 100 million dollars - the usual stuff.
Hal Tucker: Delmar, from me to you, you're an asshole.
Delmar: Yeah? And you're a loud-mouth punk slag, who's about to die.
Hal Tucker: Maybe. But in a minute I'll be dead, and you, will always be an asshole.

Travers: Tucker and Walker! We're missing 3 bags.
Gabe Walker: What's in them?
Travers: None of your fucking business!
Eric Qualen: Suits, socks, 100 million dollars - the usual stuff.

Eric Qualen: Do you know what real love is, Kristel?
Kristel: No.
Eric Qualen: [whispers in her ear] Sacrifice...
[shoots her]


  • Hang on.

About Cliffhanger (film)

  • My guess is that it won't flop, because it delivers precisely what it promises. It's a big-budget extravaganza with a lot of stunts and special effects, starring Stallone as a professional mountain climber and rescue expert, who gets roped into a scheme masterminded by criminal skyjackers.
    True, there's not a moment in the plot that I could believe.
    That didn't bother me for an instant. "Cliffhanger" is a device to entertain us, and it works, especially during those moments when Stallone is hanging by his fingernails over a three-mile fall, and the bad guys are stomping on him.
    The movie begins with a clever mid-air theft and crash-landing: sort of a cross between "The Pursuit of D. B. cooper" and "Alive!" A gang of expert criminals, led by John Lithgow, hijacks a U.S. Treasury plane carrying millions of dollars in large bills.
  • The credits mention a lot of stunt persons, who deserve any credit they can get, because many of the most hazardous stunts in this movie were obviously not faked. That stunt man who makes the mid-air transfer between two planes deserves a gold medal. And at one point, we can clearly see that Stallone himself is dangling over a nightmarish fall. Movies like this are machines for involving us and thrilling us. "Cliffhanger" is a fairly good machine.
  • HARLIN: Actually, it was first a movie called Gale Force, which was a hurricane movie. That script never came together, and then the same deal was replaced with Cliffhanger.
  • IGNFF: What was the development process for Cliffhanger? It wasn't written with Stallone in mind, was it?
HARLIN: No. It was a spec script that came out of nowhere. Mario sent it to me, and I read it. At first, I turned it down ¿ I didn't want to do another movie with terrorists and things like that, but then we talked about it, and I loved the mountain settings, so I felt that we could do something different with that. So there was that script, and then Stallone did some re-writing on it, but it was pretty much the script that they bought that we made.
IGNFF: Although I can guess the answer what would be the biggest challenge making Cliffhanger?
HARLIN: Shooting at 10,000-foot altitude every day, and the only way of getting to the location being helicopters. And being in the middle of huge storms when you shoot at an altitude where you are actually above the clouds, so the weather can change in a matter of minutes.
IGNFF: There were huge electrical storms also, weren't there?
HARLIN: Yeah. It was funny sometimes our hair would just be standing straight up, because there was so much energy in the air.
IGNFF: How much tension does that put on you as a director knowing that the cast and crew are constantly in danger at that altitude?
HARLIN: I think its a good tension that you can put on film. In todays world, you would probably shoot almost all of it on a soundstage you can do it all digitally but I think it really added to everybody's performance that we were in conditions that were almost impossible to shoot in.
  • "CLIFFHANGER," the new high-altitude thriller starring Sylvester Stallone, wastes no time in establishing its first priority, that of sending its audience into a cold sweat. This effect is achieved spectacularly well with a long, death-defying credit sequence set somewhere near the ozone layer. Mr. Stallone, playing a pumped-up Rocky Mountain rescue worker with an incongruously Presidential haircut, does his best to save a young woman who hangs precariously from a rope across a terrifyingly deep abyss. You will be in no hurry to mountain-climb after watching this scene.
    At such moments, and "Cliffhanger" has many of them, thoughts about life insurance come to mind. Was Sylvester Stallone really filmed atop the dizzyingly high, needle-shaped peak that figures prominently in the film's opening? Did he really scale the kinds of cliffs and mountainsides that are seen here? Did he hang in midair from a fraying rope, cross great chasms via rickety bridges or battle over a helicopter about to plunge into oblivion? Obviously, a great deal of credit goes to stunt doubles and optical tricks, but the illusion is still astonishingly effective. "Cliffhanger" really seems to be set somewhere up in the sky.
  • Another problem for Stallone, as well as "Cliffhanger's" most offensive aspect, is the way he insists on playing average guy Gabe as if he's more invulnerable than the Terminator. Both Gabe and Hal receive horrendous beatings from the bad guys that are extended well beyond the point of sadism, beatings of a ferocity that would kill almost anyone, yet they survive with hardly a noticeable aftereffect. It is not a pretty picture and, if there was any sense in the ratings system, it would earn this picture an NC-17 instead of its timid R (for violence and language).
  • ...the director's cut was met with a lot of disapproval at the screening and received some alarmingly low scores. Mainly because the stunts were absurdly overblown. For example, the average man can jump maybe twelve feet across a gorge, and the stunts had me leaping maybe three hundred feet or more, so situations like that had to be pared down and still then were fairly extreme… so you’re probably better off with this cut. By the way, the 2nd unit crew that filmed the majority of the action was extraordinary.
  • Someday they'll make an action picture that manages to do without a plot. Someday they'll figure out how to squeeze so much mayhem into two hours that it won't matter who is doing what to whom. But for now, no matter how spectacular the stunts are, they still have to be connected to a scenario, and as long as that's the case, films like "Cliffhanger" (citywide) are going to continue to fall short.
    Make no mistake, the high-flying stunts in director Renny Harlin's film are definitely state of the art, and while they're going on, the film works up a serious level of excitement. But as soon as the action stops and the inevitable talking begins, "Cliffhanger" falls to earth with a considerable thud.
  • Dialogue is the only real drawback, since the screenplay by Michael France and Mr. Stallone tends to be as drab as the mountains are beautiful.
  • Until it takes a turn toward nasty sadism in its later stages—one character is impaled on an icicle, for instance -- "Cliffhanger" remains relatively bloodless and crisp, preferring to concentrate on sheer gamesmanship and clever effects.
  • If you can survive those beatings and the exposition doesn't excessively bore you, the beauty of the Italian Alps' Dolomite range (which doubled for Colorado in Alex Thomson's crisp photography) and those action sequences (including dizzying climbing and some exceptional midair antics, which are not sadistic) all function as advertised. "Cliffhanger" no doubt makes for a great coming attraction, but as a two-hour movie its claims are much more problematic.


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