Filmed at death-defying altitudes of more than 20,000 feet, with long glacial valleys hanging below, Meru puts viewers right in the climber’s harness on the face of one of Earth’s most challenging climbs. Directed and shot by climber Jimmy Chin, Meru captures the story of three alpinists — Chin, Conrad Anker, and Renan Ozturk — and their attempts to ascend the notoriously dangerous Shark’s Fin on the Himalayan Mt. Meru.
Meru is impressive on many levels — Chin happens to not only be a world-class climber but an excellent cinematographer, as well (as if it’s not enough to be just either — figures). As a fourth member of the climbers’ party, dangling in the dizzying danger of frostbiting blizzards over stunning snowscapes, we are given unparalleled access to an extreme and by all accounts inaccessible peak. The many reverential shots of Himalayan vistas are beautiful, transporting scenes of a rare caliber.
Just as astounding as the climbers’ ascent is their utmost calm in dire conditions and their clinical precision in emotion as with climbing strategy. As storytellers, they can be somewhat modicum in their words, letting the views and their unspoken trust and camaraderie do the talking. Into Thin Air author Jon Krakauer adds some welcome narrative color to the mountain men’s understatement, portraying just how gnarly the climbs are for us laypeople when the climbers make things like midair, at-altitude brain strokes seem like just another difficult but not insurmountable obstacle.
Seeing the steady-temperedness with which the climbers deftly tackle hazards will certainly make you feel a bit petty in your daily squabbles and perhaps a bit daunted by the mountain of your relative laziness, but it conversely may make you feel limitless in the potential of your human abilities.
While a mostly straightforward telling, Meru is also interesting for its spiritual element. It’s a movie about the way in which lives reorganize and settle upon a path after a destabilizing cataclysm, the way fates surprisingly intertwine in the avalanche of unpredictable force. In all, it makes for a great outdoor film — inspirational, motivating, and slightly mystic, with view after view of peaks and limitless horizons.