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PopEntertainment.com > Reviews > Movie Reviews > The Wildest Dream: Conquest of Everest

MOVIE REVIEWS

THE WILDEST DREAM: CONQUEST OF EVEREST (2010)

Featuring Conrad Anker, Susan Robertson, Robert Macfarlane, Peter Gillman, Jennifer Lowe-Anker, Julie Summers, Leo Houlding, archival footage or George Mallory and the voices of Ralph Fiennes, Natasha Richardson, Hugh Dancy and Alan Rickman.

Narrated by Liam Neeson

Directed by Anthony Geffen.

Distributed by National Geographic Entertainment.  93 minutes.  Rated PG.

 

Everyday Beautiful

The Wildest Dream

George Mallory is not a name that is all that well remembered over eighty years after his death, though one quotation that he made in an interview is still in the popular lexicon (as well as undoubtedly Bartlett's Book of Quotations).  When asked why he wanted to climb Mount Everest, Mallory simply replied, "Because it's there."

Mallory made that conquest of the summit his life's ambition and his obsession, climbing the massive mountain three times.  The third time, in 1924, he may have even been successful, but the world will never know because he and his climbing partner disappeared from view of his base camp a mere 800 feet from the summit on his final attempt. 

Even though it is common belief that Sir Edmund Hillary was the first to reach the top of the mammoth mountain about 30 years after Mallory's apparent death, there has long been conjecture: did Mallory die trying to get to the top, or trying to come down from his ultimate triumph?

Essentially, Mallory and his climbing companion took this piece of knowledge to the grave with them, however climber Conrad Anker has always wanted to find out whether the adventurer could have possibly reached his dream before his untimely death.  Anker went back and forth to Everest, eventually discovering the frozen solid (and still amazingly well-preserved) body of the star-crossed explorer in 1999. 

The odd location of Mallory's body made Anker even more certain that the climber was on his way down from the summit rather than climbing.  Therefore Anker decided to climb the mountain using only the clothing and equipment that Mallory had available to him 80 years earlier - to prove to himself that it could have been done.

The documentary The Wildest Dream flips back and forth between modern footage of Ankler searching for the body and trying to climb Everest himself with fascinating archival footage of Mallory's life and climbs.  Real letters by Mallory, his wife and his climbing companions are read by actors.  Even his death is recreated.

Obviously, it goes without saying that the scenery is truly spectacular and much of the story of Mallory and Anker's separate missions are terribly gripping.  However, in the long run, all of Anker's hard work and death-defying effort leads us to the exact same knowledge that he had going in: yes, it is very possible that Mallory reached the top, but there is no way to really know for sure.  Only two people ever knew never got to tell their story. 

The film also has a bittersweet coda which has nothing at all to do with George Mallory or his mountain.  The movie is narrated by actor Liam Neeson and the letters of George's beloved wife Ruth Mallory were read by Neeson's late wife, actress Natasha Richardson, in her final work before her own premature death last year.  It is particularly touching in the context of the film: Richardson is reading letters written to a man who was about to be killed in a violent fall on a snowy mountain, which is eerily prophetic of her own demise.

(Note: Despite the fact that this is listed in the "Now Playing in Theaters" section, at the time of this posting the movie is widely playing in museums as well as theaters.  It is almost inevitable that it will be released on DVD, but there is no official release date set.)

Ken Sharp

Copyright ©2010 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: August 3, 2010.

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Copyright ©2010  PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: August 3, 2010.