Up, Up and Away: The Summit Disappoints

Mary Baker ’17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff
Everyone has heard the saying “what goes up must come down” but it definitely doesn’t apply to the second-tallest mountain in the world: K2. Directed by Nick Ryan, The Summit chronicles the deadly story of a horrific period on the first of August 2008, when eleven climbers perished on a seemingly perfect day for a “summit bid.”
The ninety-minute film focuses on several points of view on the fateful day, featuring interviews from survivors and families of the deceased and also footage taken on the actual ascent. The reenactments are exceptionally well cast and filmed beautifully, but the editing of the film diminishes the acting and makes the story difficult to follow. The narrative jumps timelines and points of view, slowing down occasionally to focus on an individual to only leave them in the dust as the story races forward. The awkward inclusion of a previous Italian excursion only served to muddy the narrative even further.

Photo Courtesy of IFC Films.
Photo Courtesy of IFC Films.
The Summit attempts to put the viewer on edge—in fact, it tries a little too hard through the use of abrupt loud noises and the absence of music throughout most of the movie (a pity, because Nick Seymour’s score is hauntingly beautiful.) The soaring shots of the gorgeous Pakistani and Chinese mountain were jaw-dropping, but the film was often suddenly interrupted by a seemingly purposeless blackout. The excessive (non-subtitled) text on screen broke the audience away from the story, so by the end of the film putting character names to faces still proved very difficult.
Raising an interesting debate on whether it is more acceptable to throw your life away in order to rescue others or to act in the spirit of self-preservation, The Summit asks more questions than it answers.  The movie cannot seem to make up its mind about the many ethical issues involved with mountaineering and uses gratuitous shots of devastated family members to try and cover up the ambiguity. Climbing up to the summit of K2 leaves you with a 75% chance of survival, and as the mountaineers in the movie emphasize, it’s not the ascent that is dangerous—it’s the climb down.
The Summit did not impart the heart-racing adrenaline rush so key in the high-altitude sport, but the movie did look deeper into the deadliest day in K2’s history with emotion and beautiful cinematography.

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  1. Mary, you shouldn’t be reviewing documentaries, especially of the quality of, “The Summit”. Stick to your vapid musicals.

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