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In the high-stakes pursuit of big-wall climbing, the Shark's Fin on Mount Meru may be the ultimate prize. Sitting 21,000 feet above the sacred Ganges River in Northern India, the mountain's perversely stacked obstacles make it both a nightmare and an irresistible calling for some of the world's toughest climbers. In October 2008, renowned alpinists Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin and Renan Ozturk arrived in India to tackle Meru. Their planned seven-day trip quickly devolved into a 20-day odyssey in sub-zero temperatures with depleting food rations. Within 100 meters of the elusive summit, their journey - like all previous attempts - fell short of the goal. Heartbroken and defeated, the trio returned to their everyday lives, where the siren song of Meru continued to beckon. By September 2011, Anker had convinced his team to reunite and undertake the Shark's Fin once more, under even more extraordinary circumstances. MERU is the story of that journey, an expedition through nature's harshest elements and one's complicated inner demons, and ultimately on to impossible new heights.
Top customer reviews
This is a breathtaking film in many respects: the cinematography is magnificent, the personal stories are remarkable, and the film will leave you thinking. You'll be in awe (shock?) watching how they "camp". There were a number of audible expressions made by the audience throughout the film, and a resounding round of applause as it ended.
It's a story of ultimate and extreme sports/goals, perseverance, personal challenges, dealing with tragedy as well as success. It's well told, with a vision into the personal and emotional sides of the key players. I'm going to see it again.
Couple of comments: first, I pretty much knew going in that I would like this documentary as I am a sucker for these types of "you gotta see it to believe it" type documentaries. This one may top them all. If you think Everst is hard, just wait until you see Meru's Shark's Fin towards the top of the mountain, a 4,000 ft climb straight up of solid rock. Second, Jimmy Chin decided to catch everything on camera, and hence is a co-director (along with his wife), co-editor and co-producer. The footage that we get to see is nothing short of jaw-dropping. At times, I felt dizzy just looking at the screen. Can you imagine what it must've been like to actually do the climb? But wait! there is more! Just as you think that the documentary is all about the quest for Meru, we get a couple of side stories that filled in the human aspects and as a result made the movie even that much more compelling to watch. Third, there are a number of talking heads giving further insights on what we are seeing, and by far the most interesting of them is Jon Krakauer, author of "Into Thin Air". Last, there is some great music in the documentary, including from J. Ralph, Explosions In the Sky and others.
"Meru" recently opened at my local art-house theater here in Cincinnati without any pre-release fanfare or advertising. I couldn't wait to see it. The early evening week day screening where I saw this at was not attended very well, I am sorry to say. I love documentaries, and I love watching extreme sports (emphasis on watching, ha!). "Meru" is a riveting documentary that will make your heart skip a beat or two. HIGHLY, HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
As many have already mentioned, cinematography is absolutely jaw dropping, but in somewhat different sense than, say, films like The Wildest Dream. Perhaps because of the fact that the story's backbone was about persevering and overcoming personal failures of various kinds for all three main characters, and maybe more because Jimmy Chin and Renan Ozturk were shooting the footages themselves, some of the moments captured in this film felt so much more intimate and revealing of their persons than most other mountaineering films that I have watched.
Personally, the scenes that really struck cord with me the most were not of the thrilling shots of the climbers hanging off the wall or amazing sceneries of Meru, but the moments like when Conrad decided to give up on going to the top on their first attempt, just shy of the peak, or in the portaledge, coming to terms with the possibility of another failure when Renan's health started to deteriorate. These moments of agony, conflicting emotions, made this film so personal and relatable even for non-climbing audience like myself.
Speaking of portaledges, this film really made me realize and appreciate the evolution of big wall climbing over the decades. From days of bivy or sleep in hammocks for multi-day climbs, to now with new technologies like portaledges and pulleys and hauling devices... Not to diminish this FA by any means, but it did make me wonder if the same team could have accomplished this feat back in the 70's.