The Ledge was directed by Howard J. Ford (Never Let Go, The Dead), written by Tom Boyle (Nature Unleashed: Volcano), and stars Brittany Ashworth (Hostile, The Crucifixion), Ben Lamb (End of Term, Blood Orange), Louis Boyer (Wreck, Outside the Wire), Nathan Welsh (Trust Me, Shetland), David Wayman (Benny Loves You, I Am Vengeance), and Anais Parello (Offensive, Parlement). It follows a young woman on a mountain as she tries to evade the men who assaulted her by climbing to safety.
The Plot: High concept in the most literal sense, The Ledge takes climbing films like 127 Hours and Everest and strips the story down to not much more than a concept. Ford starts the climb quickly and a bit shoddily, and the story stagnates before too long.
Just below Mount Antelao, one of the largest Dolomite Mountains in Italy, friends Kelly (Ashworth) and Sophie (Parello) are preparing to climb its face. Aside from the title of the movie and a gearing-up montage that doesn’t connect to what comes after the opening credits, any establishment of the environment is eschewed. Before they get the chance, the frat pack of Josh (Lamb), Zach (Boyer), Reynolds (Welsh), and Taylor (Wayman) show up to do the same, but not before pestering the girls.
Even though The Ledge wears its intentions on its sleeve, it’s still all too obvious where this is going, as Josh attempts to rape Sophie while away from everyone else. This spirals downward and the group of guys accidentally kills Sophie, sending Kelly up the mountain with the men in pursuit. That’s essentially where the story ends, as it drags out its inevitable conclusion for an hour. No developments or other parties ensue and not much but cliches make up for what little is present.
Not many movies take the vertical path, which makes the sped-up setup annoying and the reliance on horizontal story tropes a competent bore.
The Characters: In large part, the characters are as undistinguished as the plot, with development nonexistent and backstories clunkily exposited between major events or via flashback.
Kelly is recovering from the death of her boyfriend who passed on a mountain excursion that she went with him on only a year ago. Details of the man himself other than his supposed wisdom about climbing, which is narrated in voiceover form, are absent. The lead doesn’t have much personality to spare, but she does have a knack for what she came to do. Climbing is a breeze for her, but she makes stupid mistakes that cost her tools in trying to speed up her ascent which itself doesn’t need to be accelerated since the guys are far less skilled than she is.
Josh definitely has the college frat boy backstory, as he’s always out for extra pleasure even when he’s on vacation. He’s somehow engaged to a fiancée back home but wants to sleep with Sophie, trying to win her over with drugs and alcohol. Her refusal of his advances shows more of Josh’s domineering persona, threatening his mates into helping him chase the women or face his punishment. Being rather one note doesn’t prevent unlikability, which comes easy for the character.
Posse members Zach and Taylor are interchangeable followers, with both of them under threat of being violated by Josh in a less physical way, as some reveals show that they are/were just as violent as their leader. Reynolds is generic as well, but he’s the semi-sympathetic kind of bad guy, always questioning Josh’s orders and occasionally trying to help Kelly escape.
Boyle was able to write some detestable antagonists with some skill, but the vacuous protagonist doesn’t gel with the amount of screen time she has, making her scenes a rough sit.
The Thrills: Verticality confers a sense of danger by default, with soaring heights giving an obvious idea of the risks a single slip-up entails. Surprisingly, these scenes in The Ledge make up for most of the boredom a viewer will experience.
The leadup to the initial outburst of violence is the best part of The Ledge since Ford has scenes of interaction around a campfire that begin to take a slow turn towards the sexual. As this happens a greater sense of inevitability creeps in (even though that’s a feeling present throughout the whole endeavor), and once Josh pounces on Sophie the movie gets more lurid without ever becoming explicit. Watching the arguments about how to fix the situation while Sophie’s mangled body is just below frame is a decent display.
Scaling the mountain proves an odious task, as after Kelly manages to shake Taylor off her heels during the beginning of her upward journey, there’s no direct threat to the fleeing female. We watch as she climbs up and up for minutes on end, and since Kelly is leagues more talented at freehanded climbing than the dudes, the script seemingly had to write in a pathway for them to take so they could conveniently outpace her to the top. Ford doesn’t make much out of the climb, with stasis setting in around the half-hour mark.
Once both parties reach a flat area, The Ledge stalls out almost completely, as Kelly finds a suspended tent right below the men and everyone proceeds to sit and wait on the other to do something and Josh constantly yells at Kelly. Brief flashes of suspense come from this extended sit-down, such as the men trying to use a weighted bag to knock Kelly out of the tent, but the movie loses plausibility with more makeshift murder attempts following suit.
For a movie about going upward, escalation seems to be of little importance to the filmmakers. The Ledge isn’t entirely without its moments of high-end nerve-fraying, but it’s too predictable and low-key to last its length.
The Technics: Being straightforward to a fault has its perks, as a limited budget like the one on hand to the makers of The Ledge can be used to make the handful of locations and effects look the best they possibly can, even if the decision-making can still suffer elsewhere.
Shooting locations pertaining to The Ledge are unlisted (that I’ve found anyway), but whether shot in the actual Dolomites or on some set, the outcome still looks very good barring one clearly artificial location. The camera work is generally average here but the movie captures its establishing shots and vistas well and never ruins the beauty of nature. Sometimes there’s some abysmal greenscreen work where the lines from keying out the actors and objects, but this only happens a few times.
Boyle’s dialogue is terribly weak. Almost every line is groan-worthy in either their levels of cheesiness or inhuman speech patterns. Josh’s lines are passably hypermasculine and demeaning but everyone else’s will have audiences wishing for the silence of Kelly’s climb, although these sequences aren’t safe either, since her deceased boyfriend’s fortune cookie advice pops up now and again too.
In defense of the makers of The Ledge, high-concept thrillers are difficult to pull off. Ford and company are far from incompetent, but the script they chose and setpieces they made are just too uninvolving for the movie to be worth reaching for.