Ok so I dragged myself along to this with some reluctance. Not because I thought it would be bad but this film version of the 1996 disaster portrays a well worn story. Many readers will be familiar with Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air, Anatoli Boukreev's The Climb or even Beck Weather's Left for Dead. In fact few such disasters, involving a modest number of people, can have triggered quite so much analysis and controversy. I felt quite nostalgic at the opening sequences with some great shots of arrival in Kathmandu and the trek up to Namche through the Khumbu. These were obviously filmed on location and impressively so. Once at basecamp the narrative focuses on the uneasy relationship between Rob Hall and Scott Fischer. Hall's company Adventure Consultants were in direct competition with Fischer's Mountain Madness. Despite this their mutual respect was such that they combine forces on the mountain in order to coordinate their efforts amidst numerous other expeditions. The South Africans are portrayed especially harshly in the film.
Naturally the storyline follows closely the characters involved who have paid several tens of thousands of dollars in their bid to reach the top. Rob is shown to be especially sympathetic to Doug Hansen, a second time client who had reached as far as the South Summit previously. Doug's desperation to reach the top and Rob's desire to see him there were one of the contributing factors for the disaster that followed. This and the lack of fixed ropes on the upper part of the route caused the much publicised delays. Those that did summit didn't do so until the afternoon and with worsening weather the problems quickly multiplied.
My frustration with the film stemmed from its lack of realism. Of course it wouldn't be a great movie if it set out to portray the boredom of basecamp or the repetition of climbing the lower parts of the mountain again and again. The director (Baltasar Kormakur) was clearly hell bent on reaching the final drama as soon as he could in the narrative. This and the final sequences, presumably studio shot were quite unrealistic and despite the 3D IMAX version that I saw they were pretty unconvincing. This and the dialogue which at 8000m is all but non-existent I can assure you!
That said it's a worthy attempt at a controversial story and without knowing the main characters they seem to have taken a pretty balanced view of the literature out there. Although Jon Krakauer certainly doesn't agree. Apparently his anger results from one particular scene where he is portrayed as refusing to help launch a rescue attempt after his successful summit.
Krakauer said, "I never had that conversation. Anatoli came to several tents, and not even Sherpas could go out. I'm not saying I could have or would have. What I'm saying is, no one came to my tent and asked."
All in all I enjoyed the film and it's a worthy addition to the seminal account Into Thin Air which should certainly be read alongside if you want a balanced perspective. Below is the trailer for the movie... Enjoy!