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BMZ Review: The Wildest Dream: Conquest of Everest
By Ann Coates

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The Wildest Dream: Conquest of Everest
Written by: Ann Coates
Source: Big Movie Zone
Date: March 5, 2010

     

Category: Reviews

National Geographic's latest film, The Wildest Dream: Conquest of Everest, follows the tragic story of George Mallory who was consumed with summiting Mount Everest, only to be consumed by the mountain itself.  If anything, the film is an incredibly in-depth exploration of Mallory, his motivations, his life, and his attempts at conquering the mountain.  For those unfamiliar with the British mountaineer, this documentary is an excellent and enthralling study on the tragic hero.

Directed by award-winning filmmaker Anthony Geffen, the film follows renowned mountaineer Conrad Anker, who in 1999 discovered the body of George Mallory.  Anker, in his feelings of inextricable connection to Mallory, begins an expedition to Everest to recreate Mallory's journey, down to using replica 1920s-era mountaineering clothing and equipment.  Though Anker's journey is fascinating, the truly gripping story is that of Mallory.  Using letters written between Mallory and his wife Ruth, the film traces the climber's struggle between his love for his family and his obsession with reaching the top of Everest.

Why would anyone want to climb Mount Everest is a question that runs throughout the film.  And it is exceptionally answered through the life of Mallory.  His most famous reply to this question -- "Because it's there" -- seems at first blasé and arrogant.  But the film projects Mallory's much deeper love of climbing and unwavering ambition which centered on the conquering of Everest.  Mallory's life seen through this lens of obsession is marked with sadness -- his long separations from his wife and family, his previous attempted failures at summiting Everest, and especially so with his tragic demise on the mountain that took up so much of his thoughts.

Not filmed specifically for IMAX, this 93-minute documentary is only somewhat adequately suited for the Giant Screen.  Its engaging story will captivate more so than the digitally shot images of the Himalayas.  The film perhaps would have benefitted with some scenes shot in IMAX.  With so many images of Everest over the years in the Large Format, there is a great divide between the clarity of the Large Format vs. those shot with digital cameras.  The style and form of the film do not necessitate an IMAX viewing of the film either.  Much of the film involves interviews and close-ups typical of feature length documentaries.  It is actually probably better suited for digital theaters or even home viewing through a robust entertainment system.

Though The Wildest Dream has a wonderful story, the film does falter in its storytelling.  It seems to mistake repetition for emphasis -- numerous shots of Everest abound (as expected), yet the film tends to over-saturate the audience with these images.  It is as if the film is as obsessed with Everest as Mallory was.  The overpowering presence of Everest would surely be felt with or without the unforgivably numerous shots of the mountain.

Such small quibbles however do not hinder the film massively.  A talented voice cast add to the film, with narration by Liam Neeson and the voices of Ralph Fiennes as George Mallory, the late Natasha Richardson as Ruth Mallory, Hugh Dancy as climbing partner Sandy Irvine, and the always engaging Alan Rickman (sadly little used in the film) as Noel Odell, the last person to see Mallory alive.

Despite Mallory's death on the mountain and no witnesses to the event, the film takes the view that he did in fact reach the top.  He was last seen just 800 feet from the summit before his disappearance along with fellow climber Sandy Irvine.  His body was found with a most enticing clue as well -- all his belongings were found and intact except for a photo of his wife which he promised to leave at the top of Everest should he succeed.  It is also interesting to note that Anker found Mallory's body further down and east of the last point at which Mallory was seen, suggesting that perhaps he and Irvine were on their way down before the mountain overwhelmed them.  Such intriguing clues kindle the already compelling legend of Mallory and his fate atop Mount Everest.  An engrossing film, The Wildest Dream is an exceptional look into this tragic and legendary climber.

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Additional BMZ Reviews of The Wildest Dream: Conquest of Everest

Following the Footsteps of Mallory and Irving by Ross Anthony

Movie Reviews by Ann Coates

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Antarctica: On The Edge
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Antarctica's Penguin Emperors 3D
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Dinosaur Passage to Pangaea
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The Wildest Dream: Conquest of Everest
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Avatar: An IMAX 3D Experience
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Monsters vs. Aliens: An IMAX 3D Experience
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