BluRay/DVD Reviews


By • Jul 19th, 2009 •

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This is a compelling (based-on-a-true) story, capped with footage of the actual participants who look pretty close to their celluloid counterparts. Though a contingent of the climbing party triumphantly reaches the summit of Mount Everest, it is more the story of a doomed adventure, wherein all involved are embroiled in interpersonal conflicts unwise in such a dangerous endeavor. I was struck, from nearly the start, by this ill-matched group as a metaphor of a film production. The fact that there were only twenty-five or so members of the team doesn’t diminish the power of the analogy – George Romero’s MARTIN, one of the two best films of 1977, never had more than a dozen people on set at any one time, including cast and crew – though in MARTIN’s case there was a strong communal bond. I found myself wondering, under the less potentially lethal circumstances of a film production, if I would have hired these angry, jealous, drugged-out, dissident types and gone ahead and risked the budget. The answer is, I would not have. And so I was shocked that the ending was as much of a ‘win’ as it was (on film and in reality), because these ‘team-mates’ were just about the worst mismatch imaginable.

It was amazing to see footage of Katmandu, the capital of Nepal, as well as the various base camps and higher levels of Everest – Everest: a female image as conjured by the Tibetans – and to be able to measure the risks and intricacies endured by all involved. The curious paths of clouds at those heights make one identify with the romanticized desire to go there.

I’d never seen Sherpa guides depicted as they are here – with distinct and often distrusting personalities, actually choosing at one point to walk out on their employers. In the past, the Sherpas I’d encountered in motion pictures were only spooked by the presence of the Yeti. And the art department did a terrific job with the little details, so that while one is either neutral or repelled by the personalities of the climbers, one can still be riveted by the accumulation of detail common only to that part of the world.

The script reached too hard for conflict. I’m sure conflict was there, but sometimes I felt like they were pumping up the personal emotional slugfests out of fear that the subject itself wasn’t sufficient to fill the theater/home theaters seats. Again, were I those initial Canadians, friends, together through countless climbs, suddenly confronted by a cold, unappealing business type (Tom Rooney, who looks a lot like James Cameron – a smart casting prototype for a humorless, unfriendly overseer) who is summarily thrust upon them as their leader, and then promptly hires another climber as part of the expedition, one who clearly looks down on all of them as amateurs… I could not understand why they didn’t just abandon the venture. But they didn’t, and death follows, as well as mutiny, inappropriate grasps for personal glory, not to mention Everest’s own lethal brew, including severe frostbite, hallucinations, coughing up blood, etc.

Along for the occasional appearance is William Shatner as a knowledgeable and unpleasantly suspicious reporter. He was obviously the guest star name value, hopefully to ensure release in other territories (which doesn’t seem to have worked out as planned), but in fact he’s quite good, and the film could have used more of him.

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