In 1999, U.S. mountaineer Conrad Anker solved a mystery when he found the body of famed British explorer George Mallory, who’d disappeared 75 years earlier while climbing Mount Everest. But another mystery remained: Did Mallory ever reach the summit? All logical signs point to failure, but that doesn’t suit the narrative notions of The Wildest Dream: Conquest of Everest, an unabashedly romanticized docudrama. And so, as Anker and young British climber Leo Houlding re-create Mallory’s route in a 2007 ascent (occasionally modeling the type of techno-primitive wardrobe Mallory would have worn), filmmaker Anthony Geffen pumps up the sentiment: He uses letters exchanged between Mallory (read by Ralph Fiennes) and his wife, Ruth (read by Natasha Richardson), to sell the glory of the great British era of exploration. The voices of Liam Neeson — as the film’s narrator — and his late wife, Richardson, inevitably add to the project’s poignance. But they have little relevance to the present-day climbing footage, a slippery mix of the honestly awesome and the dubiously finessed. C+
BECAUSE IT'S THERE Mountain climbers in The Wildest Dream: Conquest of Everest (Sam Peach)
Genre: Documentary; Release Date Wide: 08/06/2010; Distributor: National Geographic
Posted August 4 2010 — 12:00 AM EDT
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