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Into Thin Air: Death on Everest

A movie directed by Robert Markowitz

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Climbing into the house of God

  • Jul 3, 2000
Pros: cinematography

Cons: the story

Cloaked in her majestic white coat, she beckons me from afar. Always offering her tantalizing mounds for my eager hands, stealing the air from my lungs, making me desire even more. While she gives only what she wishes to, I clamor to reach the heights with her and soar with the eagles in our dreams. And always, she holds back at the last minute, offering and not giving, withholding the final ecstasy that only she can give. Mt. Everest, the most fickle woman in the world.

My follow up to the novel Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer, the release of the movie was almost a requirement. The novel entranced me for days and I spoke so highly of it, everyone I worked with read it as well. When the movie, Everest was released, we eagerly rushed to see it and were both excited by what we saw and disappointed that it did not follow the story more closely.

However, with the release of this 90 minute movie, I was taken back to the heights in the mountain and into the horror of the climb. The movie deals more with the fact that the climbers are more immersed in the commercial aspect of the mountain, rather than the sheer joy of the climb. Even with the fine descriptions in the original novel, actually seeing the desolation of the climb, the mountain, the depravity of the soul and body, the violent interaction between climbers - all this brings it more to front, even with my highly developed imagination.

As with all true stories, when you already know the ending, you wait patiently for each part of the drama to unfold. With this movie you are not disappointed. As the groups ascend the mountain, reaching each camp, you watch them lose more and more of their basic abilities - breathing, sleeping, eating. Half of them are suffering from edema before they even pass Camp 2, further sign that everything was going wrong.

A painful narration by Christopher McDonald as Jon Krakauer, leading you each step of the way through this tragedy. As in the book, they do not mind showing the unforgivable mistakes made during this summit, each mistake compounding until finally the mountain wins. I cannot decide if you should read the book before seeing the movie or after, but it is necessary to do both. No matter which course you choose, you will not be disappointed in either.

While the novel left my emotions wrung, the movie took me even deeper into insanity. What creature takes control of our minds and bodies and leaves us an empty shell? What drives men and women to such heights they cannot achieve? Is it the lure of the mountain or of just the unattainable? Listening to them take each step, laboring for each breath. A wonderful production with unbelievable cinematography. Not for the kiddies nor for those that don't do well with tragedy.

I will not say the acting was the best. How could you possibly convey the feelings and desperation the real players in this story felt, no matter how good an actor you are? But the men and women in this movie gave a grueling performance and many times I felt they were really trapped in the same circumstances. Frankly, I cannot imagine how they could even play these parts without suffering the mental pain the original people felt. They seemed to become so immersed in their parts as to make them believable, and painful.

There are some fantastic camera shots, particularly when Rob Hall is dying and talking not only to his wife back home but also to Krakauer in base camp. The cinematographer,Neil Roach, managed to marry these three scenes together and make you part of the movie. In fact, with the shots of the mountain, the storm, the desolation, the deaths, you become closer to the movie than you wish. Fortunately, this movie was not filmed on the death bed of Everest, but in Pilzal, Tirol, Austria - desolate enough in its' own right.

In all, 5 people lost their lives in this fateful climb, May 10, 1996, Rob Hall, Scott Fischer, Andy Harris, Doug Hansen and Yasuko Nomba. And as I said in the book review, I have absolutely no clue what kept Beck Weathers alive after he had been frozen twice!

"Coming to Everest had been the worst mistake of my life".....Krakauer

I have reached the summit despite all her attempts to thwart me, she will not conquer me but I will conquer her.......... In the end she wraps her arms around me and nestles me to her bosom and I am at peace with God and nature. In the end, she always wins.


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Susi Dawson ()
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About this movie


This film, based on Jon Krakauer's phenomenal #1 best-seller, chronicles the true-life suspenseful struggle for survival on the peaks of the world's highest mountain. This is what happens when a group of people, both amateurs and professionals, attempt to climb the Himalayas and find that despite their money and preparations, one can never underestimate the power of nature at its fiercest. The thrilling INTO THIN AIR: DEATH ON EVEREST stars Peter Horton (THIRTYSOMETHING) and Christopher McDonald (REQUIEM FOR A DREAM) and was directed by Robert Markowitz (THE TUSKEGEE AIRMEN).
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Director: Robert Markowitz
Release Date: 1997
MPAA Rating: Unrated
DVD Release Date: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment (May 22, 2001)
Runtime: 1hr 30min
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