Thursday, September 10, 2015

Meru [2015]

MPAA (R)  ChicagoSunTimes (3 1/2 Stars) (2 1/2 Stars)  AVClub (B-)  Fr. Dennis (4 Stars)

IMDb listing
ChicagoSunTimes (R. Roeper) review (B. Tallerico) review
AVClub (M. D'Angelo) review  

Meru [2015] (directed by Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi) is a spectacularly shot documentary about a team of three experienced climbers -- Conrad Anker [IMDb], Jimmy Chin [IMDb] and Renan Ozturk [IMDb] -- seeking to become the first team to climb Meru Peak (elev. 21, 810 ft / 6,660 m) in the Himalayas by way of a fabled 1200 ft / 400 m rock-wall "shark fin" at the top.  Previous climbers of the "shark fin" had either given-up completely or ended up taking a simpler path up the peak away from this enormous, legendary (and extremely high altitude) rock wall.

It's an exhilarating film that had me shaking my head repeatedly especially during the first half of the film which documented the three's first attempt to scale the "shark fin" back in 2008.  Were these people "just INSANE" ?? ;-) -- They spent THREE DAYS in a snowstorm in pup-tents nailed VERTICALLY (like BATS...) to said rock wall waiting the storm out.  Then just as their provisions were at a critical level, the storm passed ... what now?  Do they continue up or do they go down (as they would have if the storm had lasted only a day longer)?

Their second attempt in 2011 had its own challenges.  After spending the first hour of the film, explaining to viewers how important it was to for the members of a mountain climbing team to have absolute trust in each other in the months leading up to this second climb both Chin and Ozturk suffered significant injuries from other climbs / skiing expeditions, Ozturk having suffered signficant head and neck injuries from a fall.  Yet, the three decided to "go for it again" together.

The discernment / decision-making process chronicled was remarkable and portrayed very, very poignantly: Yes, all three were professionals, all three were veterans of other very, very difficult climbs (and precisely because they were sober, no-nonsense professionals they WERE STILL ALIVE TO TALK ABOUT THEM).  But professionalism aside, they were ALSO HUMAN / "HAD A HEART" and so were LOYAL (!) to each other.  In the end, the heart won out over the head, and loyalty trumped actuarial tables / cold reason.

Did they succeed?  Go see the movie ;-)

A great, great, spectacularly shot, heart thumping film, chronicling a story that also REALLY HAPPENED! ;-)

Wow, if this film does not get nominations for Best Documentary and even Best Cinematography at the Oscars this year, I'll be disappointed ;-)

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