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Everest (2007)

by on 2011/07/18

“About what you’d expect — big bunch of snow, nothing left to climb.”

* * *

Chest-beating politics are everywhere. Apparently they are even alive and well at the very top of the world.

Everest, the 2007 CBC-TV mini-series about the first Canadian expedition to successfully climb to the top of Mount Everest, gives us a glimpse into the excruciating complexity of human relationships, and one unassuming man’s triumph over both the elements and high-altitude snit fits.

This true story is Canadian right down to its permafrost. There are ‘Rock on’ salutes, flowing beer and backpacks filled with Kit Kat chocolate bars. There’s also the tell-tale poor self-esteem and other nations telling us we can’t do stuff.

Like I said, a very Canadian story.

The story follows Laurie Skreslet (Eric Johnson) a taciturn mountain climber who’s scored a license to climb “The Goddess” – Everest. Egged on by his best rock-climbing pal John Lauchlan (Jason Priestley), Laurie is man who knows when to draw the line and call it a day on the mountain.

John (Priestley) is, unfortunately, not that kind of man. After his friends fail to persuade him to quit climbing for the day, he falls to his death within the first few minutes of the film. WARNING: if you are a Priestley fan, this may not be your best investment.

After John’s death, Laurie and his friend Roger Marshall (John Pyper-Ferguson) resolve to climb Everest to honour their fallen friend. Unfortunately an expedition up the frozen, craggy peak of Everest doesn’t come cheap… so POM-Wonderful presents the Canadian Everest Expedition. No, wait, wait …in this case, it was Air Canada.

Unfortunately for the sponsors, things don’t go sound-bite smooth for the Canadian crew. First of all, not a single one of the climbers seems to have been media trained. They tend to run off at the mouth in front of reporters when they aren’t gargling beer.

William Shatner (White Comanche) plays snarky journalist Norman Kelly, who leads a battalion of wags saying the Canadian team is too green and unprepared to survive the ravages of an Everest tour.

Unfortunately, Shatner’s character and the rest of the wags are just a teeny-tiny bit right, as the expedition is plagued by misfortune. One member of the Canadian crew and three Sherpas are killed on the way.

There’s also bickering, in-fighting and eventual mutiny when Alan Burgess (Ted Atherton), a veteran climber and survivor of several other failed expeditions joins the crew.

Misfortune aside, this story ends in triumph, Skreslet becomes the first Canadian to stand atop Everest. Eric Johnson doesn a solid job playing this Canadian legend, who seems to be just as charming in real life as his mini-series portrayal.

Everest is one of those mini-series you find you can’t stop watching. Riveting, made-for-TV entertaining, it also made me proud. I particularly liked Laurie’s moments with his Sherpa – the long-suffering guide lost his toes in a previous expedition up Everest.

Laurie offers the man a prized Kit Kat bar, and locks arms with him on the walk up to the top of the world to share the victory together.

Because we are all about fairness, eh?

Everest is Canadian down to the last Kit Kat.

* * *

Rated PG-13 for some intense adventure action, brief drug use and language

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