Tuesday, November 15, 2016


Year 8, Day 319 - 11/14/16 - Movie #2,489

BEFORE: This time Josh Brolin carries over from "Sicario", and from Mexico we're off to climb a mountain in Nepal.  Another activity I know nearly nothing about, and am very unqualified for, considering I get winded just climbing up the stairs in my house. 

THE PLOT: A climbing expedition on Mt. Everest is devastated by a severe snow storm.

AFTER: Look, I don't know why people swim with sharks or become Navy SEALs, so I sure as heck don't understand why people want to climb the highest mountain in the world, which requires traveling through such harsh conditions.  If man was meant to climb to the top of Everest, why was it put so far away?  Everything about Nepal and the Himalayas just seems to scream out, "Don't come here!" and since getting to the summit climbing icy terrain, enduring extreme cold and lack of oxygen, and then walking across these rickety hardware-store ladders over endlessly deep chasms, I can't understand why anyone would put themselves through this.  Where, exactly, is the fun part?  But people are drawn to do this, for some reason.  Maybe if you know someone who wants to climb Everest, you should show them this movie, and that should take care of changing their mind.  

This film is set in 1996, which until recently had been the deadliest year for teams climbing Everest - 16 people have since died in 2015, and 18 people in 2016 due to avalanches.  But 1996 got all of the press since one climber was John Krakauer, who went on to write the bestselling book "Into Thin Air" about the experience, and another climber on the same expedition, Beck Weathers, also wrote a book, which was the source material for this film.  OK, so we know that's two characters who are going to make it home, but there are probably a few who won't.  

If you read up on the 1996 disaster on Wikipedia, (Spoiler alert: doing so will give you an indication of who's not coming back alive...) you'll learn that part of the problem was the large number of people trying to reach the summit on the same day, May 10.  Several tour groups were taking money from their clients for the experience, and were all attempting to deliver at the same time - why some of the groups weren't willing to wait an extra day at base camp, I have no idea.  The large number of people caused delays, then there were other delays when the sherpas hadn't put the fixed ropes in place in time, and any time spent waiting near the summit causes more oxygen to be needed for all those people during that time, and well, you can see how any little hiccup in this process could be deadly. 

There's also what they call a "turnaround point", which is a time limit on when someone can reach the summit, and still allow enough time to descend and return to the highest base camp.  For Everest, the turn-around point is at 2 pm, and people who have not summited by that time are usually encouraged to turn back.  So when someone in this film decides to press on after that point, you can assume that the end result is going to be less than ideal.  Mistakes are made, there's plenty of blame to go around, but I guess you have to figure these climbing companies make their clients sign all kinds of waivers which will absolve them of all blame, up to and including their own deaths.  

There's also an acknowledgement that the area higher than 8,000 meters/26,000 feet is known as the "death zone", and that's because a person's body at that height is dying (or as they say in the film, "literally dying", even though I don't see how that's any different...) because of the lack of oxygen and every body system is affected, including the ones that help make rational decisions.  Yeah, that's a problem when people have to decide whether to finish the climb or turn back, and they're already pretty foolhardy to begin with, or they wouldn't be trying to climb Everest.  

You'd think that getting down the mountain after summiting would be relatively easy, but it's not.  We even have a saying in English, "It's all downhill from here," which means that once you get over the difficult part of something, you can just coast to the end.  What a bunch of bull, as this film demonstrates - so I think we have to do away with that expression.  Downhill can kill you, and so can thinking that you're past the difficult part of something, because that's when you relax and get careless.  When the various characters reached the summit at (approximately) the mid-point of the film, that's when I got really nervous, because it meant that something was about to go sideways, since it couldn't take an hour to show people returning uneventfully from the summit.  

So, add another to the ever-growing list of activities that I'll watch a film about, but have zero interest in doing in real life.  Do you know that if you die on Mount Everest, they don't bring your body back, they just leave it there?  Because it's difficult to retrieve a frozen corpse, sure, but also as a warning to anyone else trying to climb the mountain.  So ask yourself, before you go on an expedition like this, "Do I want to die and have my body frozen on top of a mountain forever, without giving my family anything to bury?"  Ugh, I get the chills just thinking about it.  Like, I don't think I want to be buried after I die, because at least cremation is warm, not that I'd feel it, but even still...

This is not a NITPICK POINT for the movie, but for mountain-climbing in general - and admittedly, I don't fully understand the sport, but from what I do understand, it seems like coming down the mountain is as dangerous, if not more so, than climbing up.  But, don't we have better, quicker ways of getting down from a mountain?  Like, for example, skiing?  Is that not practical, for some reason that I'm missing?  OK, so maybe it's not feasible to carry skis up the mountain with you, what about a lightweight sled?  What about just sitting down and sliding down the mountain, wouldn't that be a lot faster?  Or what about using a parachute and jumping off the mountain - sure, it may be a little dangerous, but it would prevent people from freezing on the hike down.  Look, I'm just trying to help - it just seems that there must be a more efficient way of doing things. 

Also starring Jason Clarke (last seen in "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes"), Jake Gyllenhaal (last seen in "Jarhead"), John Hawkes (last seen in "Martha Marcy May Marlene"), Michael Kelly, (last seen in "Now You See Me") Emily Watson (last seen in "Red Dragon"), Sam Worthington (last seen in "The Great Raid"), Keira Knightley (last seen in "Anna Karenina"), Robin Wright (last seen in "The Conspirator"), Elizabeth Debicki (last seen in "The Man from U.N.C.L.E."), Thomas Wright, Martin Henderson (last seen in "Windtalkers"), Naoko Mori (last seen in "Hackers"), Clive Standen, Vanessa Kirby (last seen in "About Time"), Tom Goodman-Hill (last seen in "The Imitation Game"), Ingvar Eggert Sigurosson, Micah Hauptman, Charlotte Boving, Chris Reilly, Chike Chan, Vijay Lama, Mark Derwin.

RATING: 6 out of 10 oxygen canisters

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