Macdonald's absorbing and spectacular adaptation of Joe Simpson's extraordinary bestseller recounts the story of climbers Simpson and Simon Yates' desperate attempt on the unconquered Andean mountain Siula Grande. Narrated by the principals, and with actors as stand-ins for the re-enactment, it will fascinate climbing enthusiasts; but further, as a meditation on extreme human endeavour, character, friendship and the mysteries revealed by facing death, it provides much food for thought. Visually, the film is a treat. With its long shots of tiny figures traversing the dread beauty of the storm-battered peaks, it at times resembles a nature documentary. Here is the mountain as antagonist; its life-threatening obstacles described, with habitual sang froid, in the lovely mountaineers' language of cornices, glissades and spindrifts. Aurally, the accompaniment to the quick ascent is the clanking, splintering sounds of metal on ice and hoary breaths; and Simpson's descent into horror in the deep crevasse is made more eerie by the use of subdued leopard growls on the soundtrack.
Cast and crew