StoryThere are always two stories in mountain climbing, the story of the mountain and the story of the people trying to climb it. We know the story of Everest well after the tragic news stories and the IMAX film about it. There may be more technically difficult mountains to climb, but none have the mystique of Everest.
Above All Else is the story of Alan Hobson and Jamie Clarke's third and final attempt to scale the mountain. The two climbers, who had failed twice in 10 years to conquer Everest--once only 400 meters from the top--balance each other well; Clarke's surfer style is offset by Hobson's thoughtfulness. Clarke never lets things get too serious as he mugs for the camera, describing avalanche footage as "cool." Hobson on the other hand openly expresses the concentration it takes to suspend fear when crossing crevasses, moving beneath house-size chunks of ice that could fall at any moment, or climbing up high in the dead zone where there is hardly any oxygen. Knowing how Hobson feels about the risks makes the scenes in the terrible Khumbu icefall, a maze of broken ice and crevasses, much more frightening.
The film also shows parts of an expedition that are rarely seen, from the tedious organizational work that takes place before a climb, to the practice runs in the Canadian Rockies. There is also a touching scene of the mountaineers' families huddled next to a fax machine half a world away waiting to hear about the climbers' fate.
While Hobson and Clarke give the film a human element, the star is Mount Everest. The cinematography is well shot and there are some epic scenes of the peak. It is hard to understand what it takes to climb Everest, but Hobson says it best when he describes crossing the Hillary Step: "Eight thousand meters down on one side is China, eight thousand meters down on the other side is Nepal, and you are standing on a ridge all of two to three feet long. It just takes you apart emotionally." In its own way Above All Else does the same, while showing the deep, desolate beauty of Everest and the humanity of the climbers trying to attain its epic peak. --Aaron Abrams
|Above All Else-Everest Dream|