Review: The Summit
In August of 2008, tragic history was made on K2, the second highest mountain in the world, as eleven climbers died in the journey to the top and then safely back. Footage shot during the attempt from various climbers dramatic scenes that are recreated by directed Nick Ryan make up this documentary.
Various climbers from around the world offer their thoughts on the fateful day. Gerard McDonnell is the man most focused upon, while Pemba Gyalje Sherpa offers some of the most interesting insight.
The mountain alone is terrifying enough, the visuals breathtaking. The Summit spectacularly puts you on the top of the world alongside these intrepid climbers, and whether it’s the video that was shot during the climb, or imagery that was dramatized for effect, the results are staggering.
Still, too often this often disjointed film, which jumps around between times and places with some recklessness, gets away what is its most imposing character – K2. It would seem a case of trying to do too much and be too hands on. The peril is very real and as if to reinforce that concept, a climber dies within the first 20 minutes of the narrative, and the film seems to have a nonchalant reaction.
It happens again shortly thereafter and in fact with some frequency. You’re set up to be surprised, and the matter of fact nature with which these deaths are relayed is both flooring and confusing.
The focus for the most part stays on this deadly day – never mind why people decided to take on such a harrowing task, and save for one man, never mind the lives of these climbers. As well, Ryan cares not to dumb things down for the viewer either; you are throw into the world of these adventurers who are more than content to risk their lives, sitting with them in tents at the top of the world, and stuck in line with the summit in sight, waiting for the right time.
The Summit remains startling and important. For a few brief moments, the film allows for climbers to comment on the sensationalism and speedy nature of media outlets that care not for individual emotions. For the viewer, though, it’s unnerving throughout, and at least the instances of distraction allow you to catch your breath.
Should You See It?
A fascinating and tragic story is told with dedication, some sloppiness, but lots of sincerity. Worth a watch, but no need to rush.