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Into Thin Air: Death on Everest
Into Thin Air Death on Everest
Actors: Peter Horton, Nathaniel Parker, Richard Jenkins, Christopher McDonald, Tim Dutton
Director: Robert Markowitz
Genres: Action & Adventure, Drama
NR     2001     1hr 30min


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Movie Details

Actors: Peter Horton, Nathaniel Parker, Richard Jenkins, Christopher McDonald, Tim Dutton
Director: Robert Markowitz
Creators: Bernard Sofronski, David Minkowski, Deborah Edell Underwood, Hans Proppe, Matthew Stillman, Rachel Verno, Robert J. Avrech
Genres: Action & Adventure, Drama
Sub-Genres: Action & Adventure, Drama
Studio: Sony Pictures
Format: DVD - Color - Closed-captioned,Dubbed,Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 05/22/2001
Original Release Date: 11/09/1997
Theatrical Release Date: 11/09/1997
Release Year: 2001
Run Time: 1hr 30min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 2
Members Wishing: 0
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English, French, Portuguese, Spanish
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Georgian, Chinese, Thai
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Movie Reviews

Lawyeraau | Balmoral Castle | 11/06/2000
(2 out of 5 stars)

"The making of this movie was quite an undertaking. Unfortunately, it never quite makes the grade. The characters are not developed. Instead, they are caricatures of those whom they purport to be. One expedition leader, the late Scott Fischer, comes across as a mellow, disorganized, bumbling dude. One of his expedition guides, the late Anatoli Boukreev, is depicted as a self centered, Neanderthal like he-man, who clearly differs with his boss on what his role as a guide is to be.Another expedition leader, the late Rob Hall, fares somewhat better, in that he is portrayed as an organized, stand up expedition leader, who puts the welfare of his clients above his own. His much publicized radio farewll to his pregnant wife is included as part of the drama. Socialite Sandy Hill Pittman seems to represent conspicuous consumption and is depicted as a self-absorbed, rich bitch with little regard for the Sherpas whom she treats as little more than human yaks. Texan Beck Weathers fares little better, as he is characterized as a buffoon. I am sure that, were he to see this movie, he would wish that they'd have left him on Everest. The actor who plays Jon Krakauer's character has the thankless role of Greek chorus. He is there to basically tie up loose ends in the movie. He portrays Krakauer as a dour, humorless human being who, were it not for the fact that he is a talented writer, would have been pushed off the Lhotse face of Everest by some enterprising soul. Last, but certainly not least, are the Sherpas, who are shown as wise, brave, put upon souls. Now here, the movie is hitting its mark.The cinematography is laughable. Numerous shots of a mountain purporting to be Everest are easily spotted as shots of a mountain other than Everest. Since when is Everest without its signature tell tale plume, waving banner like in the sky?Let me cut to the chase. Read the well written book upon which the movie is based, "Into Thin Air" by Jon Krakauer. Do not bother with this movie, unless, like me, you are an Everest junkie and a glutton for punishment. It is the only reason that I rated the movie with two stars instead of just one. Even so, it is still pretty much of a stinker."
Into Thin Truth
M. G. Oneill | New York, NY USA | 02/20/2005
(1 out of 5 stars)

"There are two ways to approach this film. The first is whether it is a fair and accurate rendition of the events of the 1996 tragedy which was the subject of Krakauer's book. The second is simply what entertainment value the film has. Having read both Krakauer's book and Boukreev's "The Climb," this film's flagrant deviation from any semblance of reality so distracted me that I was unable to discern any entertainment value in the film whatsoever.

Things get started with a big fat lie. We are informed at the very beginning that the film is based on published accounts and interviews of the participants. This would lead the unsuspecting viewer to believe that the film makes an effort to be faithful to the truth. I wonder how many people have watched this movie and think, as a result, that they know something about the tragedy, its causes, or even Everest and mountaineering for that matter. They would be sadly mistaken on all accounts.

The film somberly announces each day of the expedition: day one, day two, etc. Each day finds the climbers of the two expeditions traveling as a group, reaching a new camp. What a joke. In reality, it takes weeks to establish the camps, while the climbers acclimatize to the altitude. This is accomplished in small groups, not the entire expedition together. If they had really climbed to camp IV in the four days depicted, they all would died of AMS before even being able to attempt the summit.

Hollywood being what it is, even a story about climbing Everest has to have some sex in it. Sex American style, no less, meaning there can be no sex without moralizing. We see Sandy Pittman's lover climb up to camp I to be with her, and a Sherpa voices strong disapproval because they're not married. He foretells that the mountain will not tolerate such flaunting of its moral code, and he fears the worse. This entire segment is a product of the screenwriter's imagination. But now we know that the entire tragedy was the result of Ms. Pittman's unrestrained libido.

We don't have to wait for the tragedy proper to get a taste of the mountain's ability to have revenge. In the next scene, a Taiwanese climber (although, there were no Taiwanese in the two groups, the screenwriter created these characters to play the role of buffoonish amateurs) walks out of his tent in his boot liners, slips on the ice and falls to his death.

I'm not going to catalog all the factual errors in the film here. By this time you get the idea. What happened is less important than what the screenwriter thinks would make good drama (and it's amazing how bad his idea of good drama is).

The most outrageous deviation from the truth comes during the unfolding of the tragedy itself. As the situation deteriorates, the movie has Krakauer coordinating and leading rescue efforts, including going back onto the mountain in an effort to find Rob Hall. In truth, Krakauer spent the night sleeping in his tent, too exhausted to move. The only member of the two teams who made any rescue efforts at all after returning to Camp IV was Boukreev, who single handedly saved the lives of four climbers lost on the South Col.

Other reviewers have commented on other failings of the movie, and to those I will only add that it is extremely difficult to follow the movie at times, because it's hard to know who is who. Characters are not introduced and most of them do not get enough camera face time to be recognized, especially all wrapped up in a snowsuit with fake snow and ice hanging off their faces."
OK, but doesn't live up to Jon's account
Ken | Olathe, KS, U.S.A. | 06/11/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)

"Having read Jon Krakauer's Everest memoir, Into Thin Air, I decided to get the DVD of the movie. The movie version of Jon's book isn't bad, but I think it falls just a little short of Jon's written account of his climb up Everest in '96.

In the movie, Christopher McDonald plays Jon; Nat Parker plays Rob Hall, the leader of Jon's Everest climb; and Peter Horton plays Scott Fischer, the leader of a rival group of climbers. As in the book, the movie details how a lack of oxygen, small mistakes, and Rob and Scott's eagerness to get to the top--and pressing on despite storms brewing near Everest's summit--combined to cause the disaster. Among the mistakes laid out in the movie were Scott's Sherpa guide Lopsang towing climber Sandy Pittman by rope even though he hadn't been instructed to do so and Jon's fellow climber Andy Harris accidentally turning up the regulator on Jon's oxygen tank full blast while suffering forgetfulness brought on by a lack of oxygen. Also, Rob disregarded his own turnaround time of 2:00 p.m., which everybody on his team had agreed to so that they'd have time to get back down safely even if not all of them reached the top of Everest by that time. Indeed, as depicted in the book and the movie, Jon and his guide Mike Groom were the only two people from Jon's expedition who reached the summit and then got off Everest alive. However, the movie also includes the inspiring story of Jon's colleague Beck Weathers, who, despite nearly dying from frostbite, walked into camp one day after everyone had given up on him and eventually recovered. Beck, as the ending shows, lost his right hand and all the fingers on his left hand and underwent the reconstruction of his nose, but he still was able to return to his work as a doctor. The most memorable scenes are Beck's near-death experience and miraculous recovery; the scene where Jon ran out and banged on pots and pans to guide the climbers who had gotten lost after the disastrous storm on Everest; Rob's dying phone conversation with his wife, Jan, who was pregnant and was talking to him from New Zealand; and the closing scene, the memorial service at Everest Base Camp for the climbers who perished on the mountain. The scenery is majestic, and I got a sense of the climbers' desperation as they struggled just to survive on Everest.

However, the movie version of Into Thin Air, in my opinion, doesn't do the book justice. For one thing, the movie was mainly concerned with what happened on Everest and not how the characters got there. To be sure, it's hard to get all the details of a book into a 90-minute to two-hour movie. However, in the movie version of Into Thin Air, we don't really get to know the characters personally. There's just a brief exposition before the climbing scenes commence. In my opinion, Rob, Nat Parker's character, is more interesting than Jon(as played by Christopher McDonald) or Scott(as Peter Horton portrays him). Rob's New Zealand humor provides occasional comic relief for an otherwise dull--and eventually tragic--situation. Also, since we hear Rob talking to his wife on the phone just before he dies, we get a sense of how much he loved his family. We don't hear Jon conversing with his wife back in the United States, even though in the book, he and Linda had phone conversations on numerous occasions--and Jon, in the book, is the protagonist and author! I think, too, that the movie understates Jon's emotional reactions to what happened. In the book, Jon was overcome with grief and guilt at the loss of his friends. In the movie he's portrayed as a self-absorbed guy who went up the mountain because of personal ambition--and when his friends(Andy, Rob, Scott, Doug Hansen, and Yasuko Namba) start dying, we don't see him exhibit any anguish. Indeed, in the movie, Jon cracks up only twice: the first time when he is standing over Rob's frozen body, and again at the very end, when he talks about his dead friends at the Base Camp memorial service. The movie's portrayal of Jon, in my opinion, is demeaning. In the book Jon wanted to get up Everest very badly--almost at the exclusion of anything else--but he still grieved for his friends. Furthermore, I think that in at least one place in the movie, there's some obvious stretching of the truth. The scene where I most doubt the credibility of director Robert Markowitz and writer Robert Avrech is the scene where Jon, having failed to rescue Rob, discovers the latter's frozen body. In the written account, Jon did not try to go after Rob because he(Jon) was shivering in his tent and concerned with his own survival. Anatoli Boukreev, a guide on Scott's team, was the one who coordinated most of the rescue attempts on the mountain. Rob's body was actually found some time later by climbers Ed Viesturs and David Breashears as they were making their way to the top of Everest. Also, I think the filmmakers' portrayal of Anatoli, one of the heroes of the expedition, is off base, although the movie truthfully recounts his heroism in the wake of the storm. Anatoli, as Jon wrote, was a dedicated guide who helped find several of the climbers who were lost, even though he had to descend ahead of his teammates because his rescue attempts used up a lot of his oxygen. Markowitz and Avrech portray Anatoli as a "he-man" type--boorish, uncooperative, and sometimes argumentative. In one scene, Anatoli and Scott get into a heated fight over Anatoli's responsibilities as a guide. Although Anatoli got criticized for the way he did his job and for descending ahead of his team after the storm, I didn't see any open hostility between him and Scott when I read the book. Another discrepancy between the book and the movie is that in the book, Rob didn't see the Taiwanese climber as the climber came out of his tent shod only in his boot liners and slid down the mountain to his death. The Taiwanese group was on Everest at the same time as Rob's and Scott's teams but didn't go up the mountain at the same time. Finally, the movie stops after the memorial service and doesn't include Jon's adjusting to life back in the United States. I concede that the movie is an abridged version of Jon's book. However, in real life, Jon had to deal not only with missing his dead friends and getting used to being at home again but with the hate mail he received after writing the magazine article which was the impetus for his book. As Jon wrote, the hatred coming from the pens of his critics made the aftermath of his Everest climb even harder to deal with than it already was. Markowitz and Avrech completely overlooked this part of Jon's story--and I think that the criticism Jon received, not just for the role he played in the deaths of his friends but for going up Everest in the first place, was a key element in his book. Still, as an adventure story, the movie Into Thin Air is not great, but it's all right. The movie, like the book, shows us how people react in a desperate situation and how even little things we do can have big consequences."
Compelling, but doesn't do justice to the book
Ken | 02/25/1999
(3 out of 5 stars)

"I rented this out of curiosity, having until then only seen the IMAX film "Everest". From a movie standpoint it was compelling and made me interested enough in the '96 Everest disaster to get and read both Jon Krakauer's and Anatoli Boukreev's books. After reading them and then watching the movie again this movie comes up flat by comparison. The books are so much better and were written by people who were really up there. While this film is well made and well directed, it takes too many liberties with the events and glosses over many things or leaves them out entirely. It is obvious that Jon Krakauer's book (or Boukreev's book too for that matter) would be very difficult to successfully condense into a 90 minute film, but what is especially disconcerting about this film is that little effort was made, apparently, for accuracy. Watch it, but read the books too, and take this film with as many grains of salt as you can stomach."