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How do they....DO that?
on June 30, 2004
Since reading "Into Thin Air", I have become a virtual Everest '96 hound, and this is my first quarry. The IMAX team's goal on Everest was to film David Breashear's expedition in that fateful year, focusing primarily on Ed Viesturs, a seasoned climber from the States, and Araceli Segarra, in her quest to be the first Spanish woman to reach the summit. A lot of attention, deservedly so, is paid as well to Jangbu Sherpa, son of Tenzing Sherpa who accompanied Sir Edmund Hilary in his premier trip to the summit.
And watching these climbers was riveting--ascending sheer sheets of ice, yards high, that look as though they are leaning in towards the climber; crossing bottomless chasms by placing an aluminum work ladder from one side to the other, and using it as a bridge; and feeling (in part through the excellent cinematography) the pull the mountain exerts on them to continue on. But I was floored, completely, by the thought of the cinematic team following along, all the way to the top, regardless of the weight and awkwardness of the equipment. For example, in the aforementioned aluminum ladder scene, shots seem to be taken from each side of the chasm. Had they carried that heavy equipment accross that ladder? And, once they came down from such a difficult and draining climb, they still managed to piece together a marvelous film.
The cinematography, once again, is gorgeous. Shots of the mountain convey not only its beauty, but its terrifying danger, as ice and whirling snow tower over the climbers, as a rescue helicopter wavers, uncertainly, as Liam Nelson explains the scientific impossibility of a helicopter to work in such thin air (it does). Seeing the Icefall alone, I think, was worth the price I paid for the video.
Warning: If you get this movie expecting it to be a documentary covering the Adventure Consultants and Mountain Madness Expeditions, chronicled in "Into Thin Air", you will be disappointed. The IMAX expedition was unrelated to the others, and of course the crew could not predict that those expeditions might yield more interesting, if tragic, results. But the teams do interact with each other when it becomes clear that members are facing unexpected danger. I enjoyed "meeting" many of the folks I had read about.
Finally, "Everest", the film, stands on its own. With a terrific story in Araceli Segarra, wonderful images from Utah and Spain as well as Nepal, and a score assisted by George Harrison melodies, it provides a great armchair journey to the top of the world.