Mountaineering movies certainly peaked with 2003’s startlingly inspirational Touching The Void. Now, utilising dramatic reconstructions and 3D footage with archive clips and real-life testimony, Leanne Pooley ascends Edmund Hillary’s monumental 1953 climb of Everest to bring us Beyond the Edge, an inspiring tale of perseverance and courage.
Released before both The Summit and Jake Gyllenhaal-starring Everest this is thankfully no doomed-to-perish disaster flick that those offerings will, no doubt, be marketed as. Instead, Pooley wants us to join her in admiring those who made the dangerous climb to the top with modest gear and mountains of guts.
Of course the big draw here is probably the 3D panoramic footage, which looks stunning, as even the 2D landscapes are enough to take the breath away as figures from the expedition narrate through the difficulties encountered along the way.
However in amongst all the impressive cinematography, nestled amongst voiceovers from some of the key players, Pooley somewhere lost the sense of character and empathy which made Touching the Void so heart-breakingly compelling.
There’s no doubt – as the stock footage of the real life climbers testifies – that there’s plenty of emotional weight in this tale, meaning it’s an interesting choice to use actors and reconstruction for moments when real-life footage would suffice.
It’s a shame too that a film intent on showcasing how Man overcame nature should focus only on the rudimentary elements of climbing at times. Perhaps a more emotive score and ‘script’ might have made up for the lack of an emotional core at the heart of Pooley’s film.
However, once Hilary and Tenzing conquer their Everest and stand on top of the world, her use of such reconstruction is clearly justified to bring us a stunning moment and testament to the endurance of the human fight for achievement. There are many more tales this mountain has yet to tell (stay tuned for those two, mentioned above, sometime this/next year) but this is clearly the most remarkable.