‘Meru’ celebrates men who battled nature and won

By Bob Bloom
“Meru” is your classic man vs. nature documentary.
A true story dealing with courage, determination, perseverance and stubbornness, the film centers on three big-wall rock climbers who try to do what no one has done before — scale the Shark’s Fin on Mount Meru above the Ganges River in northern India.
The trio, Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin and Renan Ozturk, are all tough and experienced climbers, and the Shark’s Fin provided an enticing and daring challenge.
The men first attempted to scale the mountain in 2008, but were turned back after a storm impeded their progress, and they ran low on food and supplies.
Three years later, they tried again.
What is fascinating about “Meru” is watching the preparations necessary to embark on such a perilous expedition.
To laypeople, these men — and women — may be considered daredevils. They, however, consider themselves practical risk takers.
They know where the line between acceptability and death lies. They are willing to toe it, but, in most cases, are too well trained and pragmatic to cross it.
Thus, the aborted attempt in 2008, called off just about 100 feet short of their goal. Anker, Chin and Ozturk were dismayed and disappointed, but they knew they would return some day to try again.
“Meru” is a breathtaking experience, with most of the footage shot by the climbers themselves.
At times, the movie is a mite clinical and plays like a “National Geographic” special.
But overall, it is very personal as it delves into the lives of the three men, their setbacks, tragedies and triumphs.
It is the intimate moments that focus on the personal battles of the three that elevate the film.
They are very nonchalant about what they do. Though fearless to a point, they also are very protective of each other.
The climbers form a bond, knowing that their lives depend on them working as a team, with complete confidence in each other’s abilities.
“Meru” is a film filled with amazement and wonder as it displays the grandeur of nature, as well as the deadly forces it can unleash in an instant.
Anker, Chin and Ozturk’s every step is a challenge, as they must battle frigid temperatures, high winds, falling ice and rocks and fatigue.
They see these trials not as obstacles, but as tests of their abilities and moral fiber.
At nearly 90 minutes, “Meru” is a literal cliffhanger that salutes those among us who dare to leave their comfort zones to live their lives to the fullest, not so much by defying death, but with a matter-of-fact self-confidence and self-belief that allows them to transform the impossible into the possible.
Bloom is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. His reviews appear at ReelBob (reelbob.com) and The Film Yap (filmyap.com). He also reviews Blu-rays and DVDs. He can be reached by email at bobbloomjc@gmail.com or on Twitter @ReelBobBloom. Other reviews by Bloom can be found at Rottentomatoes: www.rottentomatoes.com.

3½ stars out of 4
(R), language

  • ReelBob

    Are you a rock climber? Even if you are not, let us know what you think of this documentary at ReelBob.com.