Black Ops aka The Ascent (2019) reviews

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[Total: 10   Average: 2.3/5]


‘The only way is up

Black Ops aka The Ascent is a 2019 British science fiction action horror feature film about a group of mercenaries that become trapped on a never-ending stairwell; forced to climb or die… it was formerly known as Stairs

Written and directed by Tom Paton (Black Site; RedWood; Pandorica),  the Mosley Productions-Goldfinch Studios production stars Shayne Ward, Toby Osmond, Sophie Austin, Alana Wallace (Black Site), Samantha Schnitzler and Bentley Kalu (Wonder Woman).


A group of mercenaries is sent into Eastern Europe in the middle of a civil war to retrieve intel, but shortly after the mission, the unit finds themselves trapped on a never-ending stairwell; forced to climb or die. To survive, they must revisit their past sins if they want to get off…

The movie is said to “blur the lines of action and horror, creating a visually unique movie that deals with time travel, the repercussions of violence and consequence. Rife with practical effects, bone-crunching fight sequences, and existential dread; it’s underpinned by a villain with a real purpose.”


Black Ops was released on VOD in the USA on June 12, 2020, from Samuel Goldwyn Films. In the UK, it was released as The Ascent by Goldfinch Entertainment on digital download on 15th June.

Reviews [click links to read more]:

“As a horror, the beats might feel a bit too familiar for your hardcore audience. Think zombie-girl with a tilted head and you’ll get a gist of the jumps. It’s the science-fiction, time-travel, PTSD element of Stairs that intrigues the most, with Paton wringing as much from the Edge of Tomorrow concept as possible, before knowing when to halt proceedings with a welcome dollop of ambiguity.” Flickering Myth

“Like all of Paton’s films, this has some weighty thoughts – about war crimes and karma – along with some blunt point-scoring […] and a mixed-ability cast who sometimes struggle with dialogue but are mostly convincing in the many fight or shoot-out scenes.” The Kim Newman Web Site

“Repetition, of course, can be a drag on a story’s momentum, and as we watch this team go round and round in ever-ascending circles, the narrative economy dwindles somewhat along with their numbers – yet the stakes are higher and more urgently immediate here than they ever were in Harold Ramis’ Groundhog Day(1993)…” Projected Figures

“Paton does a good job of staging the film’s action sequences on what was a lowish budget. Being able to reuse some of the scenes multiple times obviously let him stretch his budget. As did using a staircase as the film’s main set. Smartly not trying to do anything to fancy in the battlefield scenes, he keeps them realistic and convincing.” Voices from the Balcony

Cast and characters:

  • Shayne Ward … Will Stanton
  • Toby Osmond … Jack Ford
  • Sophie Austin … Emma Walker
  • Simon Meacock … Shaun Buxton
  • Rachel Warren … The Mother
  • Phoebe Robinson-Galvin … Rachel Ryan
  • Bentley Kalu … Ben Garrett
  • Samantha Schnitzler … Kia Clarke
  • Alana Wallace … Hayley Nolan
  • Piotr Baumann … Pavel
  • Spencer Collings … Carter Harris
  • Matt Malecki … Mateus
  • Julia Szamalek … The Prisoner


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