Everest story 'spectacular beyond words'

16:00, Oct 25 2013
everest
RECREATING HISTORY: Chad Moffitt as Sir Edmund Hillary and Sonam Sherpa as Tenzing Norgay in docudrama Beyond the Edge.

BEYOND THE EDGE (G)

Directed by Leanne Pooley.

Ed Hillary and Tenzing Norgay's conquest of Everest is such a sturdy and defining thread in the stories we tell ourselves about what it means to be a New Zealander, it really is a wonder that there haven't been more films made about it. Beyond the Edge sets out to put that right.

Writer-director Leanne Pooley (The Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls, Shackleton's Captain) understands that the world knows the bare bones of the story. We don't need to be shown every nut and bolt of the teams' preparation, and neither do we need an explanation of the hows and whys of climbing Everest. It was simply something that the human spirit could not leave undone.

The British-led expedition of 1953 was reckoned to have a good shot at success. It was organised, equipped with the most modern equipment, and well led by John Hunt. A Swiss expedition the previous year had come achingly close to reaching the summit, and the British knew that, with only one expedition a year allowed by the Nepalese Government, that this was their last and best chance. Two climbing teams of two men would be the spearhead of the attempt. Behind them, an army of Sherpas, porters, and the rest of the mountaineering party would carry the five tonnes of food and equipment the expedition would use.

Pooley's film lays out the facts in an unshowy way, and then illustrates the story with a very fine mix of archival footage, and new dramatic recreation. The genius of Beyond the Edge is that these recreations are so painstakingly well crafted, that at times you'll be unsure whether you're watching something new, or astonishingly well preserved 60-year-old film. Actor Chad Moffitt bears a startling resemblance to Hillary, and cinematographer Richard Bluck lights and shoots him perfectly.

Beyond The Edge is exactly the film Hillary and Tenzing deserved. It is understated, modest, but it is also spectacular beyond words. In 3-D, on the biggest screen you can find, you will be enthralled.

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