The Summit is a mixture of the inventive and the misguided in its attempt to recreate the circumstances of the August, 2008, disaster on the world’s second-highest mountain, K2, when 11 climbers were killed.
What happened that day, already the subject of three books, is not precisely known, in part because the survivors who lived to tell the stories suffered altitude sickness and freezing temperatures.
What viewers will get from Nick Ryan’s film (written by The Cove’s Mark Monroe) are some spectacular, hair-raising re-enactments of critical moments blended with archival footage. There are also heartfelt and moving interviews, especially with surviving climbers Cecilie Skog and Pemba Gyalje Sherpa.
But the film barely manages to make the sequence of events intelligible and, at times, needlessly compounds the complexity. Particularly puzzling is the filmmakers’ decision to include Italian adventurer Walter Bonatti’s account of a 1954 Italian team’s first successful summit as a parallel narrative of confusion and controversy, and to use a journalist (Concetto La Malfa) as a talking-head substitute for the recently deceased Bonatti.