As narrated by brontosaurus-voiced Michael Clarke Duncan, Beyond Limits represents an easily digestible, inspirational documentary that will challenge your perceptions of differently-abled people while making you reassess your own troubles.
Director Kent Bassett trails Bonner Paddock as he and a group of friends scale Mount Kilimanjaro - the world's tallest freestanding mountain. At just over 19,000 feet, this ascent is not an easy task. It's a non-technical climb, which may make it seem simple, but, as we all know, the air is mighty, mighty thin up there. Factoring in Paddock's condition of Cerebral Palsy, (CP) which affects his ability to walk and balance, it's obvious the challenge is just a little bit greater. Paddock mounts the exhibition in tribute to a young friend who lost his life to CP, and as a way to raise funds for worldwide CP centers where others can meet their own challenges, living life beyond limits.
CP is caused primarily by loss of oxygen to the brain during pregnancy and at birth. In Paddock's case, this affected his ability to balance and walk. He's spent his life working against this limitation, but in doing so, he discovered the big hearts and even bigger challenges facing his younger colleagues suffering from CP. Bassett's interview segments and footage of these kids is gentle and quietly a little heartbreaking, but never maudlin. It's part of what makes this a refreshing documentary. Paddock's normal-guy persona and easy acceptance of his emotional challenges inform Bassett's choices, meaning this brief documentary is also unsentimental and direct.
There are other more-gripping mountain climbing docs, and docs that push the medium in interesting ways. Bassett opts for the tried and true approach, weaving interview segments throughout footage of the climb to remind and underscore for viewers why Paddock is doing what he does. Without this simple take, viewers might instead focus on the nature of the climb itself, a climb that looks within reach of most 'normal' people who have trained adequately. They might forget the extreme difficulty and pain Paddock has on the climb, but thanks to Bassett's steady hand, viewers won't forget Paddock's depth of emotion, indomitable will, and desire to challenge himself as he changes part of the world.
Presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, this documentary filmed in 16mm, looks just a little bit downscale. Though hard to avoid, grain gets pretty heavy during nighttime climbing scenes, and is present during most location shots. Interview segments look fairly decent, though not extremely sharp, and colors appear natural. Aliasing rears its head and digital noise also crops up once in a while. On the whole, you won't look to this for visual quality at all, but viewed on a small screen you might not notice many defects.
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound Audio seems more dialed-in than the doc's visual aspect. Though not presenting anything that truly merits a surround track, all dialog is easy to discern and distortion free. Duncan's stentorian narration, while lacking some of the subtlety of other more seasoned narrators, is loud, clear and heavy. An evocative soundtrack is a point of pride, sounding great and never conflicting with other elements, but doesn't really need more than a stereo presentation. You may also choose to listen to a 2.0 Audio track.
That selfsame soundtrack represents the main extra here; you can listen separately to each Soundtrack Selection through your set. The original Trailer and a Photo Gallery are included.
Kent Bassett's documentary of Bonner Paddock's Kilimanjaro climb is short and sweet at 40 minutes. It doesn't look all that great from the standpoint of DVD, but it efficiently conveys Cerebral Palsy's effects on Paddock, while underscoring his need to persevere. Paddock climbs for every child suffering CP, his determination will change lives, and Bassett's documentary lays it out plainly for you. As an inspirational document, it's Recommended.
- Kurt Dahlke
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