劔岳 点の記 - The Summit: A Chronicle Of Stones to Serenity
So a movie about assailing a bunch of guys at the turn of the 20th century climbing a peak in Japan that I have never heard of?
劔岳 or Tsurugidake in the Hida Mountains anyone? 2 hours solid about a bunch of men, surveying and trying to figure out a way to get to the top of a range in the middle of a small place in the world does not sound like the recipe for a show which garnered a 15 awards and nominations.
At 2999m, it isn't even that high. Some info on it from Wiki:
"Mount Tsurugi (剱岳 Tsurugi-dake) is located in the eastern area of Toyama Prefecture, Japan. It is one of the tallest peak in the Hida Mountains at 2,999 m (9,839 ft). It is one of the 100 Famous Japanese Mountains, and is called "the most dangerous mountain" climbable.
Tsurugi has a number of routes which approach world class long routes. It is recognised in Japan as "the" premiere mountaineering peak in winter. Although dangerous its death toll is a small fraction of those who have died on Japan's much smaller, but more lethal Tanigawa-dake."
Actually, stories about mountains have always been appealing to the movie-goer and this is a movie which will appeal not only to the hard core climber fraternity, but also those who love scenery, or those who enjoy a story of true grit, and facing up to the odds and even those who just enjoy movie about men fighting and overcoming the odds.
The protagonist is a surveyor for the Japanese Army Survey unit. Even though he isn't an army soldier, he is a civil servant and he is tasked to climb the mountain which has not been known to have been conquered, and he also needs to bring massive amounts of equipment to place positioning stones which will be used to plot maps and establish positions.
Now climbing 3000m, even of a difficult mountain, does not sound like much, especially when the route to Mt Everest has almost become a highway. But this was done in 1907, when ropes were still made of natural material, and canvas was the main material for most items. You have to cope with bitter cold, strong winds, snow, and lashing rains.
The main actor Shibasaki (played by the cool Tadanobu Asano), has to go where no one as gone before and he enlists the help of a local guide, who defies the traditional beliefs of the local villagers, who believe it is hell as represented on earth, and therefore should not be climbed. Initially even his own son opposes his efforts to assist the surveyors.
To add to this he faces a rival team from the Japanese Alpine team who simply wish to be the first to reach the summit and they are led by Toru Nakamura. So Shibasaki has to face pressure from his boss, the rival team as well as the elements to succeed in his twin task of mapping the mountain and being the first on top.
Apart from scenes depicting the arduous climbs, and how tough life must have been using hemp ropes, which tend to break at the slightest tension and have no elastic tensions or give, they also make you feel afraid for them as they don straw jackets and make do with canvas tents, and branches for climbing poles.
It certainly makes us feel a lot more cosy in our North Face, Cloudveil, Arcteryx jackets, fleece and other modern conveniences, that make our leisure stroll up the Blue Mountains or other places so much more comfortable.
But this movie also showcases some truly awesome scenery, and the sunsets, sunrises and those scenes of a sea of clouds beneath your feet, with Fujiyama in the distant are superb…
The movie has a strong cast, who show good chemistry especially between Shibasaki and his guide played by the intense Teruyuki Kagawa (who steals the limelight from the main star each time he appears).
Although it's "only" a movie about man versus a mountain, there is humor, humanity and tension as man battles with himself, others and against nature.
The plot will win you over, and the show deserves all the accolades it has garnered, and even if you don't speak Japanese, the subtitles are easy to follow.
There are some fall scenes and enough climbing action to keep the action fans happy, and there are good surround effects too.
To top it off, you get a few moments of eye candy in the form of the actress who plays Shibasaki's wife, but this is a show that doesn't want to plant a woman in the middle just to get more hormones stirred up…
This is worth a rental for the climbers, for those who like beautiful vistas and for those who appreciate a good old yarn about men against the mountains.
And its worth keeping if you get find the Blu Ray at a decent price for the awesome mountain scenes.
Also on BR now:
Region Free too