The Summit charts a tragic 24 hours on K2, the world’s second tallest peak, which saw 11 climbers perish in August, 2008. What actually happened on the mountain during that time remains a mystery. The Summit pieces together a number of survivors’ stories to try and establish exactly what went wrong.
Anyone who was seen Touching the Void will feel immediately at home here. The Summit uses a similar style – mixing contemporary interviews with survivors with dramatic reconstructions. As the K2 disaster happened in 2008, The Summit has an extra resource at its disposal: raw footage filmed by climbers on the mountain.
This extra source offers some of the film’s most compelling moments, but it also adds to the confusion at the heart of the documentary. The blending of shaky mountain footage, reconstructions, TV news reports and new interviews confuse the story that The Summit is trying to tell.
The film will be interesting to Irish audiences. It was part-funded by RTÉ and The Irish Film Board, it is directed by Irish director, Nick Ryan, and one of the main subjects is the Irishman who lost his life on K2 that day, Gerard McDonnell.
While the film is visually stunning at times, and has its share of heart-wrenching moments, the sum of its parts never outstrips these individual parts; it never quite finds any conclusions.
The piece is set up around climbing as a primitive struggle. It looks at how people act when pushed to the limit, but rather than diving off the edge like Touching the Void, it retreats and gets bogged down in details – chiefly clearing the name of Gerard McDonnell. This final story arch seems heavy-handed and forced, and takes away from the film as a whole.
In keeping with the film’s subject matter, its narratives become muddled, tired and confused. The Summit is a worthwhile film, great to look at, and has some incredibly powerful scenes, but never quite realises its full potential.
The Summit is in cinemas November 22