They called it “an assault on Everest,” man against mountain, with a clear winner remaining. Leanne Pooley’s “Beyond the Edge” celebrates the 60th anniversary of Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay’s successful summit of Mount Everest — the first in history to do so. Conquering “that prodigious white fang” (as it was famously described by George Mallory, who died on the mountain in 1924) was an astonishing achievement, particularly in the days of wool climbing gear and leather boots with strap-on spikes; at the time, many wondered if such a feat were even possible.
Pooley’s film blends re-enactments (with Chad Moffitt as Hillary and Sonam Sherpa as Norgay) with archival footage of the famed climbing duo’s 1953 expedition, as well as interviews contributed from contemporary climbing experts and historians. (Hillary’s son Peter, who gave the film his blessing, chimes in.) It’s all rendered in 3D, with the archival footage reformatted; you’ll feel the Everest chill and gape at the astonishing vistas.
The film has something of a stately pace, which is perhaps appropriate for a mountaineering film — on a successful summit, nothing happens quickly; just one foot carefully placed in front of the other. The re-enactments are done with skill, though it’s a bit disconcerting to learn later that the climbers were actually on the Southern Alps of New Zealand, not Everest. (Want to see a climbing documentary entirely shot on Everest? Try 2010’s “The Wildest Dream,” which this nonmountaineer found just a bit more thrilling.) Nonetheless, you leave “Beyond the Edge” in awe of these men’s accomplishment.
“We knocked the bastard off,” Hillary famously said upon descent; indeed they did.
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Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or firstname.lastname@example.org