The Wildest Dream IMAX review
|REVIEWS - MOVIES|
An extraordinary insight into the loftiest climes of human ambition...
“It’s 50-1 against but we’ll have the whack yet”.
The year is 1924 and George Mallory is six days from the summit of Everest. His life ambition, to ascend the unconquerable jagged colossus, is within tantalising reach. Alongside him, Sandy Irvine makes some final adjustments to their oxygen apparatus. Mallory composes a letter to his wife Ruth, promising, in a grand romantic gesture, to leave her picture at the summit. A debilitating cough grips his body, causing it to seize up. The next day they set out, and, as the clouds roll in, a mere 800 feet from the summit they are never to be seen again.
“I saw a patch of white that was whiter than the snow…I realized that this wasn't a body from recent times; it was something that had been there for quite a while.”
Fast-forward to 1999. A team of explorers led by the American Conrad Anker climb Everest with a single goal in mind: to find the deceased body of George Mallory. And there, sprawled across the ‘death zone’ on his frozen belly, he lies, his gabardine clothing and hobnailed boots preserved, the only item conspicuous by its absence is the picture of his beloved Ruth. Haunted by the missing link, for Anker the gnawing question remains, was it possible that the intrepid Englishman could have made it to the top and been the first to have conquered Everest?
In 2004 director Anthony Geffen was stuck in an airport when he came across Anker’s co-written book “The Lost Explorer”. Seeing much more than just another documentary about Mallory, Geffen had read the book and got hold of Anker’s telephone number before his flight had even taken off. Five years later and Anker with his young British partner Leo Houlding recreated Mallory and Irvine’s fateful journey, but not without difficulties as various crew members suffered from the altitude and were forced to leave the expedition. Rather than cancel the shoot, Geffen was persuaded to let two mountain guides with no previous camera training take their place.
“You can almost see the curvature of the earth, and that’s mind blowing”
The Wildest Dream is a life-affirming documentary about Man’s insatiable desire to conquer nature. This is a reckless, thoroughly indecent love-affair taking place at 30,000 feet between a man, his mountainous conquest, and the spurned lover. This is D.H. Lawrence in a new guise, and what is left in no doubt is the human cost to which such a feat of wanderlust ascribes. The cinematography is just breath-taking and Liam Neeson’s narration perfectly captures the mood of such an epic adventure.
“There was a yelp, and Conrad just disappeared”
Intertwining private letters, archival footage, interviews and vast quantities of climbing, the connection between Mallory and Anker is exemplified to allow us to recreate the horrific conditions endured pre-monsoon season along the North East Ridge route. The effect is a gripping piece of work despite the fact that the outcome – whether Mallory was the first to reach the summit – is irrelevant. What is more important is understanding just why climbers feel drawn to conquer whatever nature puts before them. If Mallory’s classic statement “Because it’s there” is a good starting point then watching Anker attempt to free-climb Everest’s ‘Second Step’ – a large 90 foot sheet of rock – will both horrify and inspire.
“I just wish he could have seen the film.”
The end result is that both sets of climbers leave with their reputations and places in history still intact. On the other hand, the indigenous Sherpas, without whom no climber would ever attempt such a journey, are not given enough screen-time despite their vital role in proceedings. It’s a shame, but not enough to detract from such a fine film. Quite what Mallory would have made of it all is anybody’s guess.
The Wildest Dream will open at the BFI IMAX and select cinemas across the UK from 24 September, 2010. Official site.
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