The Summit movie poster
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The Summit
The Summit movie poster

The Summit Movie Review

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I find mountain climbing crazy. I find mountain climbers to be especially crazy. I do not get why anyone would push themselves beyond their limits, climbing higher than any human ever was intended to be, risking his or her life and at the very least fingers and toes to reach the top of anything just because. But I also find mountain climbing extremely fascinating and am drawn to anything that presents insight into what drives certain people to do what they do.

The Summit is a documentary about "the deadliest day on the world's most dangerous mountain," which means it is about 11 people who died while attempting to summit K2.

Sold.

Director Nick Ryan and screenwriter Mark Monroe bring this tragedy to life the best they can with a documentary that mixes interview footage, real footage from the climb and reenactments to fill in the gaps. Documentaries about mountain climbing seem to embrace reenactments more than most (though I base that on the only other one that comes to mind, the fantastic Touching the Void), perhaps because the conditions of the mountain and the people on the mountain are best shown, rather than talked about.

The result is a film that isn't as gripping as the filmmakers intended but still interesting and engaging. Ryan and Monroe clearly did a lot of research and managed to obtain interviews with most of the parties who were on the mountain that day. The stories sometimes align and often conflict when it comes to specific details, as is often the case in analysis of mountain climbing tragedies. If anything else, The Summit proves that the truth is in the eye of the beholder.

That brings me to my one big complaint about the movie: The Summit operates on a theory that a specific mountain climber did specifically heroic things that have gone overlooked, if not completely misreported. But it's only in the film's final few minutes do you realize that the filmmakers really want to make such a case, and they end with interviews featuring the man's family - none of whom can speak to what happened on that mountain. Whether the filmmakers make the case is unimportant, sadly enough; their dedication to this subject just doesn't work, and at worse it weakens the entire movie.

The Summit is a decent documentary that explores a multifold tragedy in one of the most harrowing places on Earth. By default, that makes it entertaining. It's no Touching the Void - it lacks the suspense, the unbelievable circumstances and entertainment factor - but for those interested in mountain climbing, or the craziness of mountain climbers, The Summit is worth checking out.

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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