I’ve heard much of this documentary when it came out and even remember the talk of the actual events when the climbers returned to civilisation. The “split in the mountaineering community” was actually something I remember, so a lot more than just talk for good sales on a documentary.
The movie mixes traditional face on interviews of the three people involved in the story with beautifully filmed recreations of events. The result is a compelling, emotionally tight, and dare I say exciting film. At one point there is even some tragic comedy moments, although these are peppered lightly and the focus of the film is on the disastrous events and the choices the climbers made.
I haven’t been so moved or on edge from a movie in a long time, much less from a documentary, and it goes to show how well edited and directed this has been.
However, one thing that did bother me is that the climbers faced huge criticism when they returned, and this was around the pivotal event shown in the documentary. The defence of this choice is that both climbers say it was the right thing to do, and each said this was the only thing to do.
Yet the film doesn’t bring any humanity to this showing the climbers talking individually to the camera with little to no emotion and the briefest of re-enactments showing a few words of swearing and a rub of an eye when the overwhelming emotion and relief should be coming. I could not help but think this left the climbers looking cold and, to a degree, inhuman.
If only the documentary had pulled back from the factual portrayal and shown a bit of the human emotion at the end then I think the climber’s case would have been better shown. This wouldn’t have affected the bias of the movie, and might even have balanced it out a bit more.