Top positive review
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Superb docu-drama reaches new heights
on 5 June 2014
If you ever thought climbing Everest was easy, then this visually stunning documentary will open your eyes to just how hard it was for the British expedition of 1953 to reach the summit. It also explains how and why the New Zealander, Ed Hilary, ended up being the man at the top alongside local Tenzing Norgay.
Beyond the Edge is a sweeping, gripping summary of their climb, including all the painstaking preparations, and although I have seen maybe a dozen different documentaries about Everest, its history and climbing it today, this is one of the most successful in the way it explains to the layman the challenges of climbing over 29,000 feet, and the sheer accomplishment of the achievement.
It also contains an entirely believable, scarily realistic reconstruction of the final night Hilary and Norgay spent on the side of the mountain before their summit attempt, barely able to sleep, beset by banshee winds and struggling for every breath. It's genuinely gripping stuff -- unusually powerful for 'just another documentary'.
Beyond the Edge combines some (not much) archive footage, still photos, reconstructed modern filming, voice-overs from recent climbers and radio broadcasts from the original expedition team members to capture the flavour of the climb and the nature of Edmund Hilary. Combined with some breath-taking filming, the effect is both matter of fact, down to earth, and magnificently majestic.
The film-makers have found a new story to tell - including the weeks of preparing the route, the hundreds of porters needed to carry equipment to the lower camps, the experimental oxygen equipment which failed and caused the first summit team to turn back. To top it all, they graphically demonstrate the knife-edge reality of the final climb, along a narrow spine with sheer drops on either side, and how the two men had to physically conquer `Hilary's step' by technical climbing merit at a height when most people would have been unable to stand, let alone walk.
Definitely worth seeing in high-definition, and with a good sound system. Some of the archive interviews are a little distorted, but the soundtrack is stupendous. And the sound of the mountain wind, trying to rip the men from safety, is awe inspiring.
I suspect that experienced climbers might find all this a little lightweight, but for an interested observer, it succeeded in revealing some of the true challenges of climbing Everest which were overcome by the team in 1953.