Can a movie accurately depict the real life events of a tragedy of the magnitude of what happened in Everest in 1996?
I am skeptical of Hollywood movies based on real events. Cramming all the facts in a two-hour reel rarely comes out as an authentic account.
John Krakauer, the author of “Into Thin Air”, who sold rights to his book on the Everest tragedy, is a bitter man. In his recent interview, he rubbished the movie as “total bull”. “Anyone who goes to that movie and wants a fact-based account should read ‘Into Thin Air.’”
John now regrets selling the rights of his book to Sony Pictures. I find his disposition funny. John has made a career by his insidious critique of certain team members from ill-fated 1996 Everest expedition. His assessment of Late Anatoli Boukreev and Sandy Hill (Pittman) is widely considered skewed with intent to destroy the personal reputation for literary success.
John has portrayed an uncanny ability to be the only one who knew exactly what was going in the minds of every person out there. Even after admitting his personal lapse of judgment on summit day, he portrayed himself as the only one competent to analyze the turn of events.
The detailed account by late Mountaineer, Anatoli Boukreev in his book, “The Climb” makes for a great read if anyone wants to understand the mountaineer’s perspective of what happened. His book (though not written eloquently as Krakauer’s), responds to factual inaccuracies in Krakauer’s account.
Be as it may be, John is paying for the liberty he took in inking his overzealous account of the tragedy. This new movie certainly is doing no favors to John as the ghost of 1996 Everest tragedy returns.
Should you care about Everest, the Movie?
1. The movie tried to raise the pertinent question. Just why do people climb the highest peak on earth? Reference to late George Mallory quote, “Because it’s there” still lingers in the consciousness of climbers and mountain enthusiasts. For those watching the movie with limited or no knowledge about Everest, this may just be a good film to get acquainted.
2. I saw the 3-D version of the film. The climbing scenes were intense. The one with crossing the aluminum ladder bridge over Khumbu ice-fall gave me the chills. Most of the movie scenes were shot elsewhere, but the film keeps a cinematic consistency. No-where the Director gave away the plot by over dramatizing the climbing struggle. No impossible heroic stunts were botched up. The climbing scenes were kept neat and real. I can only imagine how terrific the mountain scenes will look in an IMAX Theatre.
3. The depiction of Rob Hall, Scott Fischer, and Beth Weathers is brilliantly portrayed in the film. I was moved by the scene where Rob Hall insisted in taking his client Doug Hansen to the summit and stuck beside him till the end. It is easy to criticize the decision making but when you are up in the “death zone”, one has to weight in the priorities. My take is Rob felt obliged in taking Doug to his dream and was willing to pay the ultimate price. The whole scenario was delicately depicted in the film.
Is the movie a true depiction of 1996 events on Everest?
The answer to the question is NO. For an adventure movie based on real events, the movie falls short of being complete and comprehensive.
1. The action scenes are compelling, but it lacks enough climbing thrills. A two-hour movie can never encapsulate the grandeur of what it takes to climb Everest.
2. The Filmmakers have tried to show a neutral stand of the 1996 event. They have tried to depict different people’s viewpoint. Unfortunately, this is also the Achilles heel of the film. The film lacks depth as the script of the movie is left to the imagination of how certain characters of the film would turn out. It by no means be taken as the true rendition of the predicament leading to their demise. The dead do not speak. A few factual inconsistencies have cropped up in the movie as a result.
Watch the movie for cinematic action scenes in IMAX/3-D. The movie is a visual treat.
Where the movie hits a jackpot is with the new audience who do not understand climbing Everest and the call of the mountain. This movie is a good means of getting them mountain acquainted.