THE REEL BINGE with Lee Ostler: MERU (2015)

Directed by Jimmy Chin, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi

“The center of The Universe is…”– Jimmy Chin

“…Unachievable” – Conrad Anker

A documentary this week. I believe I will be discussing documentaries all month. Don’t hold me to it. “Meru” (2015) is fucking fantastic but doesn’t make me change my opinion on extreme altitude climbing.  Much like deep Sea diving, climbing (particularly extreme summits) holds no appeal for me. Meru-Poster-617Fucking none. Even if you get to the summit of, Everest for example, you still have to get down before you lose your fingers, toes and bits of your face before you simply freeze to death.  Just watch “Everest” (2015), that shit happened, recently. Did you know that extreme overexertion such as mountain climbing, Ultra-Marathons and over-training can cause Exertional Rhabdomyolysis where your muscle tissue breaks down and you piss it out and looks like Guinness. Anyway, I’d rather lose a finger or piss something I shouldn’t after fighting something or someone rather than the cold or getting way to tired.

Meru Peak is a mountain which lies in the Garwhal Himalayas, in the Uttarakhand region of India. The Central peak (6,310 meters, 20,700 ft), flanked by the easier to climb, Southern and Northern peaks is the antagonist of this film. The Southern and Northern peaks have been conquered but never the Central. To make it sound worse, the route is called “The Shark’s Fin”. No Sherpas to take the majority of the risks and hump your extra shit like Everest.  Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin, and Renan Ozturk are the protagonists here, they’re going to attempt meru-posterwhat has previously been impossible. We start in 2008 with a failed attempt after 18 days. “We’re running out of fuel, food, cigarettes and papers” says Jimmy. 100 yards short, they have to bail.

Now, these guys are not your average climbers. Conrad Anker and Jimmy Chin are straight up rock-stars in that world. The kind of guys who ski down Everest. Renan Ozturk, though less experienced is world-class climber as well. After a couple of near death accidents on the part of Jimmy and Renan, really gnarly stuff, the decision is made to attempt Meru again in 2011. The fact that Jimmy Chin got the shots that he gets while attempting what seems to be impossible is fucking astounding. Has to be seen to be believed. One of the best documentaries this year for sure. Probably wins the Oscar. I still don’t understand the impulse to climb this shit. There are far more reasonable ways to push yourself. Fighting a bear with nothing but a large fork, Russian style? sure. Cage fighting? Sure. That wing-suit shit? I guess so. Fuck climbing mountains, for real. – LEE

MERU – Official Trailer


Associated Recommendations:

“Everest” (2015): Star studded piece featuring Jason Clarke, Jake Gyllenhaal, Josh Brolin,  Sam Worthington,  John Hawkes, Robin Wright, Michael Kelly, Keira Knightley and Emily Watson among other notable faces. A story of this magnitude simply has to be told on a big budget with big effects like this. Exceptionally well made. I liked it quite a bit.

“The Eiger Sanction” (1975): Fuck being Politically Correct. Clint Eastwood as art history professor/professional hit man/world-class climber has some butt to kick and ass to slay in this fucking gem of 1970’s spy flicks.

“Touching the Void.” (2003). Documentary about two climbers as they tackle the Siula Grande in the Andes. The climb had never before been achieved, but on the way back down one climber is seriously injured. This is a crazy, white-knuckle film.

“Cliffhanger” (1993)Sylvester Stallone is the good guy. John Lithgow is the bad guy. They duke it out on a mountain. Watch it if for some reason you haven’t already.