So the Everest movie hit the cinemas and I was like a kid before Christmas to go and see it. And understandably so, I have been involved in the story of the 1996 Everest disaster since it unfolded.
In 1997, a B-Grade, made-for-TV version of the story was released, titled "Into Thin Air - Death on Everest" starring Christopher MacDonald and some other actors. This waste of time movie did no justice to the most infamous accident to grace Everest. IN one scene during the walk to Base Camp, someone remarks how big and beuatiful the mountain is and they cut away to a stock image of the North Side of the mountain...fail to say the least.
Having read Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer as well as the other other accounts of that fateful night, like The Climb by Anatoli Boukreev, Climbing high by Lene Gammalgaard amongst others, I needed to see the cinematic portrayal brought to life...and in 3D!
I confess to be one of those self-acclaimed Climber-Critics (AKA a$$hole) with a keen eye for detail that can find the mistakes in any Hollywood staged climbing scene. People climbing on the wrong knot, harnesses unbuckling under the weight of a 55kg woman (1993 Cliffhanger) and all sorts of no-nos. SO I went into the cinema with high expectations and a bladder that was too small for the large Coke.
It was incredibly awesome to see how real they brought the entire mountain to life with a seamless mix of real footage, green screens and CGI and there was a lump in my throat seeing Madam Everest again - as close to "in the flesh" without a rubber oxygen mask on my face.
The ONLY mistakes (and I could be wrong) but the gloves that Beck Weather's character wears on their summit bid look like Black Diamond Guide expedition gloves which were only released about 5 years ago. Besides that, I questioned the clothing they wore in the scenes leading to Camp 3 (GoreTex jackets and windproof pants. At that stage of the climb, climbers are usually wearing full-body downsuits)...but hey what do I know?
And when the actors move their gear bags to the bus in Kathmandu, they look too light. Baggage is a massive problem for any climbing trip and those duffels weigh in at around 35kg each. The actors fling their bags like they are taking our the garbage. ;-) Maybe I'm just really weak (?)
In terms of the geography and how the actual mountain and surrounds were portrayed was spine-chillingly accurate. I was flooded with the memories of Namche Bazaar, the Lohtse Wall, the Yellow Band and especially the view of the summit pyramid as the camera pulls back revealing the dragon's spine that leads to the top of the world.
The details of the story are incredibly accurate and I think the creative license used in the scenes which had to speculated are completely believable. In a way I was pleased to see that despite basing the movie on Krakauer's book, he was not portrayed as the hero and at times his weakness and selfishness is exposed.
Rob Hall's final conversation with his wife brought me to tears and I was grateful how real Jason Clarke portrayed Hall's dying moments. With severe exhaustion and hypothermia, Hall's voice croaks over radio, dispelling any romantic climax from Titanic or Romeo & Juliet. To quote a fellow New Zealand climber, Mark "Woody" Woodward's description of his condition, he was "proper-w@nkered". I believe the scene did Rob Hall's character, bravery and humanity justice.
WHAT ABOUT THE SOUTH AFRICANS?
Everyone remarks how the SA team in the movie are portrayed in a bad light. It could have been worse. The South African team's ascent of Everest was laced with conflict, bad judgement and tyrannical leadership. But this is an opinion piece. I suggest reading Ken Vernon's book "Ascent and Dissent" for a peak into our beloved country debuted on the Everest stage in 1996.
We saw it on a Thursday night in 3D at Ster Kinekor Sandton City and drove 65km that Staurday to see it again in 3D IMAX at Cradlestone Shopping Mall. I am also awaiting it's release to DVD online. Click click bought.
Seeing it 3D is not the be all and end all, but it puts a sting in the tails, especially in the scenes showing the ladder crossings.
I'm no Barry Ronge but that movie got an whopping 11 out of 10. Noddy points for not making it drip with Hollywood schmaltz. But I have been known to be "a little passionate" and bias when it comes to all things Everest.
BUt the best thing of all was the privilige of seeing it with my wife Tracey. Giving her a glimpse of the mountain I have been obsessed with since I was 15. She got to see the terrain, conditions and beauty but also got a taste of what I see in it and the expedition that I belive has shaped me.
SO in short. It was awesome. Go see it for yourself - and next time someone says "Everest is too easy now. They should put a cable car to the top" give them my number and then stand back. ;-)