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This is a mountain climbing documentary intending to masquerade to some extent as a scientific endeavour. The mountain pictures are nice and even impressive, but the scientific subtext is between not very interesting and laughable. The editing is fairly traditional, with lots of talking heads alternating with action and scenery.
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83 of 83 people found the following review helpful
EVEREST TAKES ONE'S BREATH AWAY...11 Sept. 2001
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This is a superb presentation by Nova that was directed and produced by award winning filmmaker, David Breashears, and Liesl Clark. Narrated by Jodie Foster, the film explores the high altitude climbing experience and the effects of hypoxia, lack of oxygen, on the brain. In order to do this, scientists will track four climbers, as they tackle Everest, among them David Breashears and Ed Viesters, two of the world's reknowned high altitude climbers. With baseline tests having been conducted stateside, the effects of altitude will be measured, as they climb the highest mountain in the world. Asides from the filming of the scientific tests conducted to provide information on the effects of altitude, there is spectaculatr footage of Everest and its environs. There are breathtaking views of the Khumbu Ice Fall and the great expanse of the Western Cwm. The viewer also gets to see what a bottleneck on Everest looks like. It is pretty amazing to find crowds and congestion in such a vast and remote place. It is also disconcerting to see the amount of trash that is left behind, creating environmental concerns where, until fairly recently, none had existed. Along their journey, the climbers come across the grisly remains of a climber who did not make it. They also come to the final resting place of the late expedition leader, Rob Hall, who froze on the mountain, when he refused to leave the side of his friend and client in order to save himself, during the 1996 Everest disaster. The viewer sees just how lonely and remote that final resting place is. When the climbers summit, the viewer is treated to a spectacular vista from the top of the world with beautiful snow capped peaks peeping through fluffy clouds. With this ascent, Ed Viesters becomes the first non-Sherpa to have reached the summit of Everest five times. Unfortuantely, one of the other climbers, who reached the summit, became quite ill from the effects of altitude. Yet, all descended safely. Later, additional tests would reveal that Ed Viesters, who routinely makes high altitude climbs without the use of oxygen, has had portions of his brain affected. The scientists, who conducted the tests, would like to check back with Ed Viesters over time for a follow up. All in all, this is a very interesting and informative film, with breathtaking cinematography. As a DVD, it offers chapter search, close captioning, a link to Everest: The Death Zone website, and Dolby Sound. It is pretty much a basic DVD with nothing fancy other than the film itself, which is first rate.
73 of 75 people found the following review helpful
Is on my favorite DVD's list, and should remain there21 Jan. 2000
- Published on Amazon.com
I too have seen a number of everest films, as well as having read a number of mountaineering books, such as K2: Triumph and Tragedy, and of course, Into Thin Air. This documentary captures the essence of a climb better than any other I have seen. Its focus is on the effects of high altitude on the climber's mental skills and decision making ability, but you get wrapped up in the drama of the climb right along with this. The drama involves one of the climbers who starts out with a mild cough in base camp, but progressively gets worse as he climbs highter, till he is on the brink of death. And none of it is a dramatized recreation, but the real thing. From base camp, to each of the camps (I, II, II and IV on the South Col), you are right alongside the climbers as they progress, then retreat, progress again, and become acclimatized. Breathtaking views from each of these camps are shown, as well as the summit, and you really get a feel of being there with them. This is the first film I've seen a film that has shown the South Summit and the Hillary Step up close, but on a somber note, you see where Rob Hall spent his last hours near the south summit. Before this film I could only imagine what these points on the mountain looked like. Compared alongside the everest IMAX film, this is simply put together and organized much better, with a true sense of what it is like to be on the mountain and struggle with the climbers. I suppose the IMAX film was Breashear's warm up film for everest, and this was the result of a year's reflection on how much better it could have been, and it succeeds admirably.
51 of 51 people found the following review helpful
No Walk In The Park18 Nov. 2001
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"Anyone can climb Everest. All you need is $70,000 and a Sherpa to drag you to the top." Not quite. Even with two of the best mountaineers in the world as guides (David Breashears and Ed Viesturs) AND the trusty Sherpa; young, fit David Carter almost died in his attempt. "Everest: the Death Zone" should be required watching for any Everest wannabe. The camera is unflinching while it pans the dead bodies like cautionary sentinels along the trail---the garbage strewn upper camps that look more like badly maintained junkyards than the most majestic mountain on earth---a traffic jam at 28,000 feet (are you seriously telling me I have spent all this money to get to one of the most remote places in the world, to be one with nature, and I'm in a TRAFFIC JAM? Yes.) The film has magnificent footage of the treacherous Khumbu Ice Falls showing horizontal ladders laid across yawning crevasses that must be traversed. (What I want to know is: Who lays and affixes the ladders?) This area is the most objectively difficult on Everest, and it is early in the ascent between Base Camp and Camp I. This means it has to be crossed, not once, but many times carrying supplies to the higher camps and adds exponentially to Everest's dangers. The camera work on higher reaches of Everest, including the summit is breathtaking. So what went wrong that put David Carter in peril of his life? This is the heart of the film: the effect on the human body of extreme altitude. In a nutshell, we are not designed to survive above 21,000 feet. No matter what your skills (or that of the ever-dependable Sherpa), you are vulnerable to hypoxia, pulmonary and cerebral edema, frostbite-all potentially lethal. To add to the danger, if you can't walk out, you will probably die. No one can carry you and there is no possibility of helicopter rescue if you are higher than 21,000 feet. You are without support and very alone. The film has a great deal of scientific explanation with graphs and visuals. Maybe too much for some viewers, but this is Nova after all. There are excellent close-up photos of high tech equipment and demonstrations of how it is used. The color is sharp and clear and the audio is first-rate. "Everest: The Death Zone" doesn't pull punches and has great integrity. Highly recommended.
50 of 54 people found the following review helpful
The Science of high altitude physiology21 Jan. 2000
- Published on Amazon.com
Unlike most movies of this genre, "Everest the Death Zone" attempts less to entertain than it does to educate. While there is some outstanding footage of the climb itself, the video really gains its strength from it's scientific examination of the physiology of high altitude climbers. Sure, there may be more glamorous videos available, but you will not find one as gripping as this. The film takes the viewer through the planning stages, the climb and the post-expedition review of the data collected and relates it to the extremely hypoxic environment endured by the climbers. As with all films made for a general audience, there is even some drama as one climber suffers near fatal breathing difficulties on the descent. A particularly poignant sequence near the summit shows the body of Rob Hall, the NZ guide, who died in the fateful 1996 tragedy. On a scientific level, this account of high altitude exposure is spot-on. I have used it in college level classes to illustrate the effects of lack of oxygen to my students. Monitoring and recovery equipment (pulse-oximetry and Gamow bags) is demonstrated in use on real patients and suitable treatment and rescue strategies are discussed. This film cuts away the mythology surrounding much of the high altitude climbing world and as such is a must see for any active or armchair climber.
23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Tremendous documentary26 July 2003
- Published on Amazon.com
This is an exceptional film with an abundance of information not found in other Everest films. I used to think the short IMAX movie was the best-ever Everest documentary, but I've changed my mind after seeing this. The photography here is just as stunning, and it's 20 minutes longer than the IMAX effort. The photography here is breathtaking, and they show extensive footage of the south summit. In no other documentary have I seen the Hillary Step in such detail, especially with climbers on it. The film focuses on a climbing party, complete with Sherpa's and the obligatory personal profiles of each climber. We follow them from Base Camp to the various points above, then descend, then ascend again gradually to the peak. The debilitating effects of AMS and HACE are shown in excruciating detail. There are many segments of climbers in their tents, scarcely able to breathe or function properly. The courage of these climbers is awe inspiring, especially in the face of violent weather and the prospect of death on the mountain. If you're an actual climber or just a vicarious Everest person like myself, you will enjoy this movie. It offers as much, or more, than the IMAX film and that is indeed high praise.