Chicago Tribune

HURT stellar in family drama

BY MICHAEL WILMINGTON
          TRIBUNE MOVIE CRITIC

     John Hurt,  the   star   of “The Climb,”   is   an   actor  with   an often    staggering   capacity  for conveying      human    suffering. With his watery eyes and lean bony,  tragic-looking  face.  Hurt can   almost   radiate    pain. Yet there’s a sardonic side to his acting (in stories like “The Naked Civil Servant” and “Love and Death on Long Island”) that undercut any sentimental mush. He’s capable of making us laugh at the   victims   he   portrays and their  folly even to empathize with their entrapment.

Almost   all    Hurt’s skills  and view in “The Climb”  which is one of those sterling  independent  films   that  some    times unfortunately  slip   through the cracks. Set  in   1959 in  Baltimore suburb   (although   it was actually  shot  in   New Zealand. It’s an engrossing  and  sometimes  wonderful   little  family drama, revolving   around    a young boy’s   relationship  with his  reticent  father   (played by David Strathairn), a man falsely accused of   cowardice, and with the dying old engineer (played  by Hurt) who lives next door. The boy, Danny Himes (a  very good, unsentimental performance by Gregory Smith) obsessed with the notion of  proving   his    courage, partly because in a  neighborhood dominated  by   Korean  War veterans,   his   non-veteran  father Earl (Strathairn), is a target  to abuse and ridicule. Danny becomes  fixated on proving his own bravery  by climbing an abandoned   TV tower  high in the hills above  the suburb, as one of his collaborators is  Hurt’s, Chuck Langer a cancer-ravaged  engineer  who built  many a bridge and road in South America.

All of the actors in this film are good.  But, as Langer, Hurt is simply tremendous.  Impending death has snuffed out almost all Langer’s inhibitions and turn him into a  railing profane old tyrant.  Yet,  the warmth and the depth of his ties with Danny are always convincing.

“The Climb” is a  little jewel well-worth seeking out - for  its humanity, its humor and, most of all, for the brilliant hurting of Hurt.
June 24, 1999
“The Climb”

Directed by Bob Swaim; written by Vince McKewin  Photography   by   Allen   Guilford;   edited by  Marie Sophie Dubus: Production designed by Kim Sinclair  Music by  Greco  Casadesus:   Produced  by   Mark McClafferty,  Pamela  Edwards  McClafferty, Tom Parkinson.     A  Panorama  Entertainment  release: opens   Friday at the Village Theater  Running time: 1:34. MPAA rating PG-13
        THE CAST
Chuck Langer . ...................John Hurt
Danny Himes............... Gregory Smith
Earl Himes.................David Strathairn
Jack McLaskin........Stephen McHattie
Ruth Langer..............Sarah G. Buxton 


The Climb               

John Hurt gives a tremendous performance in an engrossing and sometimes  wonderful Independent  film, a family drama that revolves around a young boy’s (played by Gregory Smith) double relationship with his reticent father (David Strathairn), a man falsely accused of cowardice, and the dying old engineer, Hurt who lives next door. 
PG-13