Director: Jimmy Chin, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi
Cast: Conrad Anker, Amee Hinkley, Grace Chin
Spoilers Within: No
Originally posted 10th March 2016 on Letterboxd.
By simply knowing the synopsis, there are two predetermined views you could make about Meru: humans have the capacity for truly exceptional things, and humans have the capacity for truly foolish things. Both of these ring true from beginning to end, which is both the success and failure of this reflective documentary about crazy people doing crazy things.
In the face of typically insurmountable odds (how many times has that idiom been regurgitated when referring to mountaineering?) a team of climbers tackle the imposing and frightening nature of the “Shark’s Fin” route atop the Meru Peak, complete with avalanches, skiing mishaps, faulty equipment and many more disasters that are sure to have you gritting your teeth and bum cheeks in agreement.
To my disadvantage, I watched it on a smaller screen than it was designed for, and it definitely would have been more thrilling in a cinematic situation, but even on a projector screen there were some wholly astounding vistas that were matched by the dogged perseverance of the climbers (one of whom rejoins the expedition a mere five months after a life-threatening accident!) but in the echelons of extreme sports documentaries, this is, unfortunately, a repetitively expositional and surprisingly idle ‘thrill’ ride.
One word on the soundtrack: (aside from the pleasant yet unconventional use of José González’s ‘Heartbeats’) this is yet another film wherein Explosions in the Sky have commanded the visuals with their sweeping, stimulating brand of post-rock. Bravo to ’em, and bravo to those brave, brave idiots who tackled the “Shark’s Fin” route.