Review: THE SUMMIT

By Mark Saldana 

Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)

In 2008, groups of mountain climbers, representing different nations, lost eleven people while attempting to climb and descend from the infamous K2 between Pakistan and China.  Deemed the second highest mountain on earth after Mount Everest, K2  presents an intense and hazardous challenge for mount climbers. Writer Mark Monroe and director Nick Ryan combine interviews, footage shot at the expedition, and recreations of the events. This astounding true story does have its thrills, poignancy, and its moments of genuine sorrow and does succeed in keeping audiences enthralled, but the film also features some questionable directorial and editorial choices which often hinder the storytelling. 

Nick Ryan’s combination of real footage and the recreations do flow seamlessly in the beginning.  However, one begins to notice the little differences between the actors and the real people and also how impressive some of the camera shots are. I am not certain if Ryan intended to fool his audiences, but if a ruse was intentional, he eventually fails as the film progresses.  Another issue with the organization of the film has to do with Ryan’s inexplicable repetition of certain moments in the story.  In a sequence where different climbers are discussing their versions involving the tragic loss of some climbers, this makes perfect sense, but Ryan does this with a few sequences near the beginning of the film and it plays out redundantly.

On the more positive side, the film does offer much insight into the mindset of the climbers and the common drive that makes them want to risk their lives for this one of a kind experience. High praise should be given to cinematographer Robbie Ryan whose recreation footage is quite impressive, but perhaps too impressive if the director was going for a completely seamless effect.

I am guessing that this film lacks the budget for an IMAX quality production.  This is unfortunate because a documentary of this scale deserves to be told and experienced on the gargantuan IMAX screen.  Because this film is available only on a regular sized theater screen, and because of the messy storytelling messy, I’d recommend waiting to watch this film on an HD television at home.

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