Sundance London 2013: The Summit
Friday 26th April, 9.15pm – O2 Cineworld (Sky Superscreen)
Sunday 28th April, 2.45pm – O2 Cineworld (Screen 8)
This compelling documentary tells the story of 22 climbers from various international expeditions who gathered to tackle the second highest mountain in the world: K2. The Summit will have you gripped in watchful anxiety as the narrative shifts between the various perspectives on the venture, the real footage, and the heart-racing re-enactments of the dangers encountered.
K2 is not only known as the world’s second highest mountain, but also as the most murderous. It has taken the lives of many an intrepid mountaineer, and statistics say one in four climbers will die attempting it. With this in mind it’s a wonder anyone would want to go near it, but the emotional motivation behind the deadly mission can be felt strongly through the raw and honest style of The Summit.
For many of the film’s characters, this expedition has long been a dream, including in particular Ger McDonnell. A touching portrait is sketched of this kind, exciting and heroic Irishman through personal footage and interviews with his family. While we are introduced to many of the lives and deaths of those involved with the climb, Ger stands out due to his death being left unclear.
The documentary beautifully captures this mystery through the conflicting stories of camp members. This aspect also adds a sense of conclusion to the tragic tale, with the other notable hero of the piece being Ger’s best friend Pemba Gyalje Sherpa, who put himself at great risk to save others and was the last to see Ger’s body.
Of all the fascinating footage used, the interviews with Walter Bonatti (who went on an Italian expedition of K2 in 1954) is perhaps least necessary. While still interesting as a way to further characterize the terrifying reputation of the mountain, it seems somewhat disruptive and distracting from the central story of the 2008 expedition.
The rest of the film works as a striking commentary on the nature of adventure and the hunger for it that is inherent in many people. The amazing shots of the mountain that gradually zoom to reveal scatterings of tiny climbing bodies truly emphasise the hugeness of nature. In the end, no matter how skilled and prepared the climber, his life is ultimately in the hands of this powerful, sharp peaked presence.
Overall Nick Ryan’s documentary is exhilarating viewing material that takes you to heights many will never experience (and probably won’t want to after seeing this!)
The Summit is released on 26th April 2013.
Read more reviews from the Sundance Film and Music Festival 2013 here.
For further information about the Sundance Film and Music Festival 2013 visit here.
Watch the trailer for The Summit here: