My Rating: 3 stars
I can’t say I was too excited about this movie. I had read the non-fiction book it was based on years ago, Into Thin Air. And, while I enjoyed the book, I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted to see that whole tragedy rehashed up on screen. It’s hard to watch a disaster unfold, especially when you already know everything that’s coming. But, I did find something to enjoy about the experience, and that was all the visual effects.
From everything I’ve read, and based on all the pictures I’ve seen, the scenery up on Mount Everest is extremely dramatic. And, the visual effects team did a really good job recapturing the breathtaking views. The best part was how they recreated the feeling of just how dangerous it is up there—the frigid temperatures, the brutal storms, the yawning crevasses, the extremely precarious holds the little camps have on the side of this deadly mountain. It’ll make you feel cold down in your bones. Those effects really were the best part of this movie.
The true story this movie tells is so heartbreaking. Climbing Mount Everest is already dangerous enough. And, many people die each year attempting it. But, there are ways to prevent a catastrophe on the scale of what happened on this 1996 expedition. Many poor decisions were made. Individual climbers overestimated their abilities. The experts underestimated the weather. Miscommunications meant that some very important maintenance that needed to happen never occurred. And, guides made exceptions to their own safety policies, not realizing that all these other mistakes were at play. It was a perfect confluence of every terrible condition you could imagine. And, many people died that year as a result.
Like I said, this movie is a little hard to watch knowing everything that’s going to happen in advance. Although, I did notice that I had misremembered a few of the details from when I read the book so long ago. I had forgotten the fates of a few of the climbers, and I had forgotten others entirely. So, there was a small element of surprise left for me. But, I think the whole point of the movie is really to underline what a brutal place Everest is, and to show how every single person attempting to climb it is a little (or a lot) crazy. You pretty much need to have nothing else to live for to be willing to take that kind of risk. Either that, or you’re so crippled by your own insecurity, that you need a big, hairy accomplishment like this every now and then to feel good about yourself. We’ve all met one or two of those types.
I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t respect any of these extreme climbers. It’s one thing to value your own life so cheaply. But, when you have a family back home that loves you—like group leader, Rob Hall—it’s pretty much unconscionable to attempt the climb. And, that’s one more reason that I wasn’t too keen on seeing this movie. Practically none of the personalities we meet are at all sympathetic. Of course, I didn’t want them to die, but they’re people I would have steered clear of in real life.
See this movie or don’t. I really don’t feel strongly in one direction or the other. It’s a fine movie. And, I found some elements to enjoy. The cinematography, for one, is beautiful. And, the visual effects are pretty seamless. As for the story, it’s really up to you to decide whether this is something you’d want to put yourself through.