DOCUDRAMA; 1hr 30min
STARRING: Chad Moffitt, Sonam Sherpa, John Wraight
“We knocked the bastard off”: from left, Sonam and Moffitt
What compels men to climb mountains? Is it the physical challenge, mastery of their inner selves or an extreme fusion? Edmund Hillary (lookalike Moffitt) was a 33-year-old New Zealand beekeeper when, in 1953, he set off for Mount Everest with the British expedition led by John Hunt (Wraight). It was a tortuous life-changer.
Writer-director Leanne Pooley pieces together an interplay of actual footage and voice-overs with a re-creation of the punishing climb. With 13 already dead on Everest’s escarpments and the 8,848-metre — 29,031 feet — summit still unconquered, the Hunt expedition is a death-or-glory defiance. The icy, prehistoric monolith dwarfs all before it: the climbers, with their flimsy ladders and crampons, are insects on its slopes. Pooley’s scrupulous tribute to them is largely more solid than exciting — you see what the men endure while not entirely feeling it. But in the final, triumphant stretch, when “Ed” and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay (Sonam) are entirely alone, the ferocious isolation is as urgent as a slap.