Stallone Saturdays: Cliffhanger (1993)

Anyone who has seen Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls will more than likely never forget its opening sequence, and anyone who has seen Cliffhanger will know just what I’m talking about.

As Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls opens, aerial shots of mountains. We also see Ace (Jim Carrey) climbing across a mountain on a wire. Attached to him is a raccoon. The raccoon’s chord begins to break, Ace hangs on to the raccoon for dear life, until the raccoon slips from his hand. Sad, I know. But also funny, if you catch the joke. Years later, I realized this was from Cliffhanger, and as I watched the opening seconds Cliffhanger, I mildly chuckled because of how well Ace Ventura nailed the execution of these scenes. Yet as the opening of Cliffhanger continues, my chuckles went away, because what I began to experience was something not only pretty impressive, but also frightening.

The film is directed by Renny Harlin, whose films range from good (this one, The Long Kiss Goodnight, Die Hard 2) to rather terrible (Cutthroat Island, The Covenant)Cliffhanger is one of the good ones. Heck, some might say one of the best ones, because here is a film in which you go into it expecting something rather spectacular. What you get is something that may not be spectacular in terms of story, but it is marvelous in terms of its craftsmanship and just how well and seamless the action sequences appear to be. The film was actually nominated for three Academy Awards- two sound awards, and Best Visual Effects. It lost all three of them to Jurassic Park, but in another year, it might have won them, and deservedly so. 

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