Monday, December 3, 2007

Into Thin Air: Death on Everest

In 1996, Jon Krakauer and others in the expedition of Rob Hall, attempted to climb Mt. Everest. Hall linked his people together with Scott Fischer's in attempt to provide the best assistance they could offer for their clients making the summitt push. Most of the people who had paid to get to the top were not professional climbers. Krakauer was doing a feature on the commercialization of Everest for Outside Magazine and was himself attempting to summit. A storm hit the climbers on the descent and many people lost their lives. This created the basis for the book Into Thin Air by Krakauer on which this film is based.

Obviously you don't expect big production values on a TV film, but the surprising lack of funds is confusing. Into Thin Air appears to have been rushed into production to capitalize on the tragedy. The book would go on to become one of the largest sellers in nonfiction history and would have justified something more elaborate. Shooter Mcgavin... er Christopher McDonald, leads the known cast as Jon Krakauer and provides narration that cuts bits and pieces from the book. Peter Horton, star of the greatest volleyball movie ever Sideout, steps into the role of the reckless Fischer who seems in over his head.

Production values are horrible and the film completely cuts out the set up for the climbers. In real life, the climbers had to go through an acclimation period to the high altitudes of even the base camps. This is a pain staking process that is breezed through in the film. Alas in 90 minutes, all the heart and emotion had to be stripped out. You never really get a sense of the bonds that were formed or the real problems with the ascent.

The only real positive I was able to take out of the film was Jeff Perry. Yeah I didn't know the name either, but I recognized him as he guest starred in perhaps the greatest MacGyver episode of all time even though doesn't list him as in it. He plays a postal worker here trying to reach the top of the world.

What a mess of a film! The book Into Thin Air is easily the most compelling read I have ever experienced. I have probably read it five times over the years and it doesn't lose its punch. It's too bad that this great book doesn't have a film that could capture the narrative of Krakauer.


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