The Wildest Dream,

Pasatiempo - - Moving Images -

World War I be­fore set­ting his sights on Ever­est. His fa­mil­iar­ity with death and peril was hands-on, as he had served in the Bat­tle of the Somme. But if his ex­pe­ri­ences as a gun­ner there played any role in shap­ing his high-al­ti­tude dare­devil ways, Gef­fen doesn’t en­ter­tain the no­tion here.

The di­rec­tor does, how­ever, es­tab­lish Mal­lory’s ob­ses­sion with con­quer­ing a moun­tain re­ferred to by the climber in a 1922 jour­nal as a “prodi­gious white fang ex­cres­cent from the jaw of the world.” Through the nar­ra­tion of cor­re­spon­dence be­tween Mal­lory (voiced by Ralph Fi­ennes) and Ruth (voiced by Natasha Richardson), it be­comes clear that Mal­lory’s at­trac­tion to Ever­est even­tu­ally over­rides his sense of re­spon­si­bil­ity to­ward mar­riage and fa­ther­hood — al­though Ruth didn’t ap­pear too un­hinged by the sit­u­a­tion. She writes, “Dear one: I will be think­ing of you as you set off for the sum­mit. I know you can achieve your wildest dream.” In an­other let­ter, Mal­lory writes to Ruth, “If we get within 200 yards or so of the top of Ever­est, we shall go. And if it’s a one-way ticket, so be it.” The somber tone in the read­ing of ro­man­tic letters and pri­mary film nar­ra­tion by Liam Nee­son (Richardson’s hus­band) de­scribe how Mal­lory’s pas­sions were con­stantly at odds. When he was on the moun­tain, he longed to be home. When he was with his wife and chil­dren, the Hi­malayas beck­oned.

In The Wildest Dream, Mal­lory’s in­ner strug­gle is mir­rored and am­pli­fied through the high-def­i­ni­tion scope of con­tem­po­rary ref­er­ence. Anker, an ac­com­plished moun­taineer, mar­ried the widow of his friend and for­mer climb­ing part­ner Alex Lowe, who died in a 1999 avalanche while on a climb­ing trip with Anker and oth­ers in Ti­bet.

As film­mak­ers fol­low Anker’s 2007 ex­pe­di­tion with Bri­tish climber Leo Hould­ing to re­trace Mal­lory’s and Irvine’s fate­ful jour­ney, au­di­ences learn how Anker’s new wife and kids feel about the pos­si­bil­ity that he might not come home. It’s a brief but re­veal­ing look in­side a fam­ily that has lost much and stands to lose it again.

Sus­pense reaches a peak when Anker and Hould­ing free-climb Mount Ever­est’s no­to­ri­ous Sec­ond Step, which be­gins at 28,140 feet and fea­tures sec­tions that are es­sen­tially ver­ti­cal. Just as Mal­lory and Irvine

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