Storm Over Everest

Press Reaction

Alex Strachan, CanWest News Service

"... Storm Over Everest, is elegiac, mournful and quite beautiful to look at. Breashears is himself an experienced climber, and has a climber's eye for photographing the glacial peaks of Tibet and Nepal. This is not your cliched, tourist-poster view of Everest, but a more genuine, sentient approach -- Everest as seen through the lens of an artist. Reverent, but not sentimental. An eye for detail, but not sentimental. …

"It's not the visual beauty of Storm Over Everest that stays with one, however. It's the personal tales, of witnesses and survivors of those terrible two days in 1996, that have a way of seeping into the inner consciousness. Perhaps it's because Storm Over Everest is so quiet and soft-spoken in tone -- it could not be more different than the hysterical, over-the-top late-night cable newscasts with their glitzy graphics and jingoistic announcers, [or] those cheapo, made-on-the-fly news programs masquerading as 'documentaries.' This is powerful filmmaking with a wrenching story, well told. Even if you've seen films about Everest before -- even if you've seen Breashears' own IMAX film -- do find the time to see Storm Over Everest. It's not at all what you might expect."

Julie Hinds, Detroit Free Press

"... 'Storm Over Everest' isn't an account that questions the skills or motivations of people who paid as much as $65,000 to join Everest expeditions. It doesn't turn those involved into superheroes, either. Instead, Breashears shows the complexity and humanity of the climbers. ..."

Linda Stasi, New York Post

"... Tonight, FRONTLINE tells the story as it's never been told before by Breashears, who is himself a world-renowned climber and aided the rescue.

"This is one of the best documentaries about survival you will ever see. You won't want to miss a minute of it."

Tony Perry, Los Angeles Times

"... captures both the beauty and brutality of Everest and the climbers' determination to beat the odds and the weather. ...

"... Breashears' photography is superb, and the re-creations are fine, but some of the other elements could use help. At nearly two hours, "Storm" could also have been trimmed. Graphics might have helped viewers better understand the various locations of the climbers during their ordeal. The music works sometimes and is soppy at others. And a full-time narrator would have been good, maybe to provide more back story on these climbers. Who were they and how did they come to attempt Everest? But quibbles aside, 'Storm' is a story of incredible struggle. ..."

Gannett News Service

"... a brilliant re-telling by David Breashears, who was there at the time, with an IMAX team.

This is a stunning mix of old footage, re-enactments and the vivid memories of survivors ..."

Adam Reilly, The Phoenix (Boston, Mass.)

"... If you've never been drawn to these accounts [of the 1996 Everest tragedy], it's probably because (like me) you aren't inclined to sympathize with people who embrace risks that seem downright foolhardy. The great strength of Storm over Everest ... is that it makes this dismissiveness feel cynical and even unethical.

"That's due in part to the film's stunning cinematography. Director David Breashears ... uses an array of sweeping, gorgeous shots of Everest to suggest mountain climbing's primal appeal. After 10 minutes, you'll want to go climb it yourself. But the recollections of the survivors interviewed by Breashears foster plenty of empathy as well. As it turns out, the cynical, obvious question -- why do it? -- has plenty of compelling answers. ..."

Neal Justin, The Star Tribune (Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn.)

"... The testimony from the survivors is heartbreaking. ..."

Mike Pearson, Rocky Mountain News

"... The high-definition footage is amazing, while the re-creation of the climbers' struggle is equally palpable. Most compelling are testimonials from the survivors themselves, many of whom obviously endured amputations. ..."

Ellen Gray, Philadelphia Daily News

"Time plus tragedy doesn't always equal comedy. Sometimes, though, it leads to perspective. And sometimes it leads to overkill. There's a bit of both at work tonight in PBS' Frontline presentation, Storm Over Everest ...

"Fleshing out [Breashears'] memories are a number of survivors of the storm, among them Sandy Hill and Beck Weathers, familiar figures from Into Thin Air, Hill (who was Sandy Pittman then) a particularly controversial one. Not that there's any indication of that in Storm Over Everest, which takes on a monotonous tone at times, as one interviewee after another describes his or her own particular memory. ...

"Though everyone who was there at the time and survived probably has something to say worth hearing, not everyone's equally adept at painting a picture. It makes for a problematic presentation for those who don't already know the story well, and could be frustrating, too, for devotees of one version or another, since Breashears appears uninterested in taking sides. Thanks to the filmmaker's wholly commendable decision to stop filming and start helping when the trouble began, Storm also relies on some dramatic re-creations that could undercut the you-are-there feel of this two-hour, high-definition documentary. ..."

David Tarrant,

"Through the years, Frontline has gained a well-earned reputation for hard-hitting, in-depth reports on tough issues, ranging from the war in Iraq to the meth epidemic in small-town America. Storm Over Everest ... represents a dramatic departure from the program's usual investigative fare. Filmmaker and seasoned mountain climber David Breashears offers up a narrative of stunning beauty and heart-pounding suspense. ..."

Hal Boedeker, The Orlando Sentinel

"... The two-hour program mixes personal, vivid recollections and frightening re-creations of mountain conditions. Usually, I'm no fan of re-enactments, but in this case, they bolster the reminiscences. Make no mistake: This show is a punishing experience. I recommend it with that warning. ..."

Mike Kelly, The Toledo Blade

"... Breashears' movie makes no attempt to play the blame game. Instead, he deftly combines interviews with survivors, breathtaking footage he shot over the two days when the tragedy took place, plus additional scenes he shot during a subsequent visit to Everest. He also stages dramatic re-enactments of portions of the story, seamlessly blending everything to produce a coherent and evenhanded account.

"Viewers are left to reach their own conclusions about what, if anything, might have been done to avert the tragedy. ..."

Greg Johnston, Seattle Post-Intelligencer

"... It is two hours long but never dull, and the show does not focus entirely on the tragedy. Also fascinating are the survivors' accounts of what would compel them to climb to the highest, most remote spot on Earth, and their utter exhilaration as they reached the heights where they could see the summit. ...

"What you will not see in this film is any of the finger-pointing and second-guessing that erupted in the years immediately following the tragedy. ..."

Jacqueline Cutler, ZAP2IT

"From the opening shots … it's clear the person behind this film knows his subject intimately. He perfectly captures the majesty of the mountain and comparative smallness of the climbers. The sun rising over the peaks and the stars that seem within grasp are all shot by someone who respects and loves Mount Everest. ..."

Chuck Barney, Contra Costa Times (California)

"... The program combines spectacular original high-definition footage with dramatic recreations of the storm conditions to make for an incredible production. ..."

The Oklahoman

"Stunning footage of Earth's tallest mountain and moving comments from those who survived its deadliest day make the new episode 'Storm Over Everest' a must-see. ..."

Rock and Ice Magazine

"… The fascination of the film, however, lies not in the scenes of howling gales and stranded climbers -- we already know those details from the many books and articles published over the past decade -- but in its wholly objective tone. ...

"... Breashears has also dramatically re-enacted the storm for the screen. Imagine a hurricane caught in full fury by a jet stream and unleashed as ice and snow against the world's tallest rock wall. ... Beautifully shot in HD, [Storm Over Everest] is an important and compelling work. A sole criticism is that, at 105 minutes, it runs a little longer than it should. Even toned down, the storm segments are not easy to sit through."

home . introduction . interactive map . the survivors' stories . join the discussion . a talk with filmmaker david breashears
blog: everest summit attempt . producer's notebook . readings & links . live chat with producer david breashears . roundtable: the ethics of climbing
site map . dvd & transcript . press reaction . credits . privacy policy . journalistic guidelines . FRONTLINE series home . wgbh . pbs

posted may 13, 2008

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