Movie Review - Meru

Meru is a rocky and snow-covered peak in the Himalayas, the mountain range in Southeast Asia. Meru specifically is located in northern India. It's nearly 22,000 feet high and one of the most difficult routes to the top is called the Shark's Fin. In 2011, three men successfully climbed that peak setting a record. This documentary, co-directed by one of the men who made the climb, charts the journey upward and the complications surrounding.

Jimmy Chin is that co-director and rock climber. The other two include Conrad Ankar who seems to be a professional climber. He describes climbing as a sport, but we never get any further explication. If it is a sport, how is the competitions organized or judged? Who are the top athletes in it? We see Chin doing recognizable alpine sports that have been a part of the Olympics like skiing and snowboarding down mountains, but an opportunity to explain the sport of climbing is wasted.

We see Chin working as a photographer, providing content for magazines like National Geographic, which are pictures of various angles of mountains like Meru that can only be achieved by climbing them personally. The third person included on the trip to the top of Meru was Renan Ozturk who is said and shown to be a photographer too, as well as a skilled, rock climber.

The film gives glimpses into the three men's lives, but the majority of it is the journey or the climb, and the difficulty involved. As such, it's fairly interesting. There's also some technical points that the movie conveys that are interesting too. For example, the climbers talk about a portaledge, or a hanging tent in which the men can live, while literally dangling on the side of the mountain.

Yet, the movie mostly takes something like that for granted. The audience is expected almost not to be impressed by something like that, but I was and wanted a little more explication about how it worked and whatnot. On the screen, the movie shows the passage of days, nearly two weeks to make the climb. The three men at one point have to stay in their portaledge for days as they wait out a storm. They address the issue of food, but what about the issue of the toilet? That's not touched upon.

Clearly, climbing Meru is not being done for the money but for the glory or personal triumph and pride, but once the danger is presented, which proves that mountain climbing could result in death, the other side isn't given much or equal weight. What is it about climbing specifically that makes them love it? Why is climbing something that they have to do, even if it might result in their deaths and heartbreak for their families? Not enough is given to answer those questions.

What doesn't help the movie are the commentary from the climbers, which take the suspense out of certain sequences. There is the scare that one of them could die but when you see and hear that particular person talking about the incident in the past tense, the scare becomes extremely less scary.

The three climbers film themselves, so the camerawork isn't the best. It would have been nice to have an aerial shot for example of the guys at the top of the mountain. They could have taken a satellite phone and once they got to the peak, they could have called an aerial crew to film them overhead. The filmmakers try to make their arrival to the top a bit more dramatic using slow-motion, but it's clearly a gimmick and doesn't make that great a punch.

Two Stars out of Five.
Rated R for language.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 30 mins.


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