Thursday, 24 October 2013

Beyond The Edge 3D: Movie Review

Beyond The Edge 3D: Movie Review

Director: Leanne Pooley

Docu-drama is quite de rigeur at the moment for New Zealand. Following the International Emmy nomination for The Golden Hour, it's fast garnering attention as the way to illustrate a window into our past that's more accessible to all.

This latest, from Topp Twins Untouchable Girls director Leanne Pooley, sets out to document the epic true journey of the heroic ascent to the top of Mt Everest by national treasure Edmund Hillary, along with Sherpa Tenzing Norgay.

It begins with the ominous sound of the wind whistling around shots of the peaks of the mountain, along with voice over telling us how difficult it is to conquer such a thing. From Hillary's bee-keeping roots to his quest to be part of the team to be given the chance to ascend Everest, it's clear that the drive was there in 1953.

Director Leanne Pooley has pulled together a film which makes good use of the archive footage to hand and expertly captures the period detail; weaving in that footage with silent recreations of Hillary and the gang on the expedition, either negotiating crevasses and the white peaks or silently discussing the outcome of the vote to send them up the peak.

Equally the use of the 3D is cleverly deployed and immersive as well - with beautifully inspiring cinematography focussing on shots of the mountain, it breathes life into the ice and gives each part of it a new terrifying depth. Pooley's also used the 3D for some of the archive footage as well, giving that tired footage we've all seen before a new lease of life. Seamlessly blending in the recreations, the narrative certainly showcases the drive and determination of all involved - a more restrained kind of a clash between Brits vs the New Zealanders.

But here's the rub with Beyond The Edge 3D - it's terribly, terribly dry. It ends up depriving what should be an inspirational story of one of our finest moments of much needed oxygen and the piece feels stuffy and dare I say it, slightly dull. Adding in actors, who look uncannily like their historical counterparts, is a nice touch; but the recreations are silent and that lack of sound stops you fully investing in the story. Pooley also uses so many voice-overs that in places you're lost as to who's talking and trying to give you insight into the psyche and mental stamina needed to take on the elements.

I dare say that Pooley was a little constrained by the source material - you can't invent drama where there was none (though, a scene where Hillary was nearly lost in a crevasse through carelessness is thrown in for relative dramatic effect as he dangles precariously on a ledge) giving her little wriggle room to work. The one creative touch where the film comes to life sees Pooley animating the lunatic ideas which were proffered up to help conquer the mountain - a helium filled balloon, a heating system within a coat. It's a touch with some flair which strays from the conventional plodding narrative.

More TV doco than big screen must-see (aside from the 3D mountain shots which are breathtaking and clearly where the money has been spent), Beyond The Edge 3D proffers up no new insights and even though it comes months after the 60th anniversary of the ascent, there seems to be little reason for it to exist. It climaxes with overblown chest-swelling music as text details Hillary's success but the whole thing feels like a curious creative misfire and a relatively dramatically bland insight into one of the greatest adventures and achievements we've ever seen.


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