Wednesday, 15 February 2012

"The Wildest Dream - Conquest Of Everest". A Review Of The 2010 Film Now On A 2011 BLU RAY.

"…Because It's There…"

Did George Mallory and his climbing partner Andrew Irvine reach the summit of Mount Everest in 1924 - almost 30 years before the first official conquering of the world's highest mountain by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay? And when Mallory's body was finally found on the slopes in 1999 just a few thousand feet beneath the 29,000-foot apex - why was the 'only thing missing' on the perfectly preserved remains a black and white photograph of his beautiful wife Ruth? Was it because Mallory had placed that photo on the summit - as he had faithfully promised in his passionate love letters written to her during the ascent?

Both of these questions are tantalizing of course - and I don't want to spoil your viewing pleasure by answering either... But I would ask you to give this superb half-drama half-documentary film a look in - because it's a fantastic retelling of a heroic and heartbreaking story - and in many ways a very romantic and inspiring watch.

"The Wildest Dream" is also a technical astonishment. Conrad Anker - the experienced climber who discovered the body in 1999 - wants to fulfil a lifetime's dream. The American wants to retrace Mallory and Irvine's last fateful journey in June 1924 - right down to using the same clothing and equipment they used. He wants to somehow prove that the brave Englishmen did indeed make it to the top but perished on the descent. Anker therefore pulls in another young climber prodigy to make up the pair (and mad enough to join him) - the incredibly agile Leo Houlding.

But in order to make the film – the beast has to be taken on – cast and crew must grapple with "…the most determined enemy…" as Mallory described it on a particularly bad day. They endure genuine hardship - two tons of equipment taken up by foot - altitude sickness - ravines - hypothermia – diarrhoea - life threatening and life-taking danger - it's all here... And adding to the beautifully photographed mountain - and expertly woven-in real footage from 1924 - the superlative voiceovers of Ralph Fiennes, Liam Neeson, (the late and lovely) Natasha Richardson and Alan Rickman also bring the whole piece to life. But narrated or not - the shots are real – not CGI – serenely peaceful dawns followed by razorblade daytime blizzards - back to huddled tents that evening massaging feet that will not thaw out. As you can imagine much of it is breathtakingly beautiful on BLU RAY – and their pursuit in such treacherous conditions (June is the latest you can tackle the mountain – just before the monsoon winds make it too deadly to attempt) dangerously close to reckless insanity.

Even the hour-long 'making of' - "Everest: Shooting The Impossible" - is a feast for the mind and the eyes - full of factoids that wouldn't have had a place in the movie - but fill in the background and your need for more.

George Mallory is like that other great English adventurer Ernest Shackleton - a daring-do man who engendered huge amounts of hero worship. But Mallory also has that mystery about him. Even his most famous comment to a reporter about why anyone would want to climb Mount Everest in the first place (title above) is disputed.
Maybe he said it - maybe he didn't? Maybe they made it to the summit - or maybe they died trying - but still valiant and true?

"The Wildest Dream - Conquest Of Everest" poses as many questions as it does/does not answer. But I'm glad I watched it - because these are great historical characters worth remembering – pioneers who deserved celebration.


BLU RAY Specifications:
VIDEO: High Definition 1080p – Aspect 1.78:1
AUDIO: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 - English LPMC 2.0
EXTRAS: "Everest: Shooting The Impossible" (Full Length Featurette)

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