High mountain climbing is one of the most dangerous activities ever, and yet, countless humans around the world practice it just as a hobby. To see these people going against the limits of human resistance is truly inspiring, but also terrifying. We often hear about all the success stories, about what or which team managed to conquer the summit of this or that mountain, but we often forget that for every successful story, there are at least one hundred failures. Netflix arrives this week with a new film that is all about climbing, and what to do when you fail.
Broad Peak is a film directed by Leszek Dawid and stars Ireneusz Czop, Maja Ostaszewska and Lukasz Simlat. The film tells the story of Maciej Berbeka, a climber whose passion for the activity knows no bounds. When he thinks he has finally conquered the summit of Broad Peak, the 12th highest mountain in the world, Maciej, and his family are congratulated, and he becomes a hero for Poland. However, not long after, he realizes that everything was a lie, and he didn’t reach the summit. Now, 25 years later, Maciej will try to complete what he started.
Stories about self-motivation, the overcoming of obstacles, and self-worth are many. Entire libraries are filled with movies created with the sole purpose of telling everyone that they can succeed at everything they put their minds to. It is a nice sentiment, but what is not often explored is the fact that only a few will succeed while the rest will fail. Broad Peak does just that. What happens when you set your mind to a goal and fail to achieve it? Well, there are many things you can do, and not one of them is easy.
Climbing is a fantastic activity. You not only need to be in excellent shape in order to progress through some of the roughest environments in the world. But you also need the mental capacity and a strong will to overcome the fact that a mistake might mean your death. It is rough, and a situation like that can easily be good source material for an amazing movie. One that shows the resistance of the human will and the will to always go a bit further, even when it means that they will find something dangerous on the road.
It is a shame though that a movie using such a powerful situation doesn’t really manage to translate those powerful feelings to the screen. Broad Peak is technically efficient and is well shot, with some cool VFX. The acting is solid, and yet, the movie is as cold as the mountain that our main protagonist is trying to climb. Every scene in the movie is boring. From the ones dealing with the climb, to the ones purposely shot so that the main character can express his feelings, are all done in such a distant way that it is really hard to care about what is happening.
The story of Maciej is a powerful one. He was not only living a lie when he thought he had reached the summit, but he was living a life in front of millions of people. Which is worse, because he was forced to face reality without notice. With no option but to face it, Maciej, as a character, had to do all that growth and introspection by himself, with a wife and a son to care for. All these things I’m telling you are perfect material for a movie that can be heartwarming and majestic, but there is none of that in here.
Dawid and this team of filmmakers do the best they can to make the movie look good, but it seems they forgot that they need the movie to feel good as well. It isn’t easy, to place the audience near a character and make them feel exactly what the character is feeling. There are many movies that fail at doing that consistently, but Broad Peak seems to never even try to get near that level of emotion. When the scenes between a husband and his wife talking about these subjects feel more like a dream than an actual conversation, there must be something wrong.
The movie tries very hard to make the climbing sequences tense. However, because we don’t care about this human being in any other way other than through the sympathy we feel so that others don’t come to harm, none of the sequences feel dangerous or terrifying as they should. Instead, the scenes feel boring and overlong, which is bad, because the movie is just about 90 minutes long.
Broad Peak tried and failed to do what it was supposed to. In some weird way, the movie feels exactly like its protagonist during the first half of the movie. It is lost, but unlike the hero of the piece, the movie doesn’t manage to reach its potential and try again to capture our hearts and minds. Broad Peak is cold, distant, and unmemorable. At least it looks good enough to feel like a film, but it has no personality or style whatsoever.