In one favorable review of this film the writer knowingly declares that movie is 20-percent documentary footage and 45-percent reenactment, leaving roughly half of the film, one supposes, for talking head interviews. Don’t know where you stand on the issue of “documentaries” employing actors and special effects to approximate the truth, but this writer feels that if you don’t have enough footage to make a feature film, you probably ought to write a book.
Much worse than the fakery, which is indeed beautiful and hard to detect from the real shots, however, are the talking heads employed to recreate a tragic day on second largest and hardest to conquer mountain on the planet. Without exception, the range of people interviewed come off as obsessive compulsives too locked into a dubious self-centered goal to show any emotion at all about their dead comrades. The story centers around an event (some of it, it turns out, involving sophisticated adventure tourism organizations that more or less guarantee summiting) when 25 climbers went up, but only eleven came down. At one point, an interviewee acknowledges that if the group had stopped and saved the first falling victim, likely none of them would have died. Yet they seem baffled how badly things went.
In short, The Summit makes it hard to suffer much sympathy. You are left with the feeling that, although the vistas are magnificent, the people who visit them are perhaps self-deceived, maybe lying, and without a doubt as indifferent as the mountain face upon which they crawl.