Whilst not a disaster movie in the strict sense, Meru is a documentary that covers three mountaineers that tackle Mount Meru across two attempts and their lives in-between. Released around the same time as Everest, I found this documentary was far more compelling to watch, and so I’ve included it on that basis.
Runtime : 1 hr 30 minutes
Released : 2015
Shooting footage as they go, Meru follows the attempts of three men returning back to try to conquer Mount Meru – something they’d tried three years earlier and failed – and so it had still remained unbeaten.
Jimmy Chin is clearly a busy man with an eye for amazing visuals. Combining his love of extreme sports and mountaineering, the Go Pro was frankly made for a man like Jimmy to use and give the gift of vistas we’d never see in a thousand years. He is the quiet driving force that see’s a trio attempt the Mount Meru climb. Conrad is the leader, but also driven by the emotions of co friends and a mentor he’d lost on the way and Renan is literally the human spiderman. The film starts at their lowest ebb and in trouble on their second climb but then through a mixture of interviews and footage en route, we see how their first attempt went wrong and how that seemed to play with their minds. From there we see how accidents for Jimmy and especially Renan between the trips then give them a huge goal to strive to climb Meru again – and Conrad takes them up for another go. It’s a tight 90 minute ride, full of emotion, vistas and a lot of talk about trust, respect and mental well-being but it all glues together as you see if they really made it or not.
Since it’s almost all entirely real footage, there’s no effects but it’s remarkable the shots and sweeping landscapes they were able to capture on their journey.
Why It’s Worth Watching
Meru really engaged me on a couple of levels. Firstly, as a direct comparison to Everest, that film gave almost all the characters zero character whatsoever. Here, we have three fully fleshed out people and we get to inspect their mind and what makes them tick. It’s fascinating to see how they all justify perceived risks and how an error in judgement can cost them their lives – but also how actually sometimes you are doomed to pure chance anyway. It also spends a lot of time talking about trust, friendship and teamwork far more than going into any technical skill and how those inform your choices too. Secondly, Renan has a massive accident which would knock most people into a wheelchair or into a safer life, but seeing how he is driven to achieve something many people assume he can’t now do is also quietly inspiring. Lastly – avalanches and stunning photography are abound here. How Jimmy survived the one caught entirely on film is astounding.
Seeing someone justify why they doing something clearly nuts.
Early on during the first climb, there’s a section where they get stuck in a storm so they create their sleeping cot, wrapped in a tent and just hang off the side of the mountain for the night because they can’t get to a ledge. Erm… pardon?! What’s worse is you can hear avalanches kicking off to the side of them – and the only way is down. As I say… they’re nuts!
Probably Renan for the way how he deals with his injuries, but all three men have my utmost respect.
Spoilers of course. After getting all the way to the summit, they only spent an hour at the top before it was time to go back down again! Conrad made some tea. A Brit in waiting if ever I saw one!
Whilst not strictly a disaster movie, this has all the elements of one but wrapped into a documentary. On top of that its engaging, fascinating and astounding brave and/or stupid depending on where you sit on the spectrum but it’s certainly very watchable!