The Summit (2012)

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Released 6-Aug-2014

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Featurette-Test Shoot 2010 (9:28)
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Reconstruction (26:44)
Featurette-Filming K2 (29:31)
Featurette-Music by Nick Seymour (9:06)
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Madman Propaganda x 4
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2012
Running Time 98:15
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Nick Ryan

Madman Entertainment
Starring None Given
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI ? Music Nick Seymour

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

     In August 2008, in clear weather, 11 climbers died on K2, the world’s second highest mountain. Produced and directed by Nick Ryan, The Summit uses footage taken on the mountain, re-enactments and interviews with climbers who survived and others to try to work out what went wrong, although a caption at the start of the film notes that what happened during that deadly 48 hours remains a mystery even to those who were there.

     What certainly surprised me was the number of different teams and nationalities that had gathered at Base Camp to climb the mountain. K2 is 8611 metres high and camps had been established on the mountain at 7,100 metres (Camp 3) and 7900 metres (Camp 4) to aid the climbers. However three weeks of bad weather in July had delayed any attempts on the summit, so when good weather returned in August there was a large number of climbers itching to go. The teams agreed to co-operate, and divide the task of attaching fixed ropes, but miscommunication between Korean, Norwegian, American, Dutch, Spanish, Italian, Pakistani and Nepali climbers and teams meant that when twenty climbers left Camp 4 on 1 August to attempt the summit they were over an hour late in starting. Later, on the mountain at a place called The Bottleneck at 8200 metres, the number of climbers created a log jam, forcing some to wait and further slowing the assent. This “bottleneck” indirectly resulted in the first two deaths that day, but the other climbers pushed on. When 18 climbers reached the summit it was very late in the day and the result was that the exhausted climbers had to descend in the dark. When an ice fall cut the fixed ropes there were still 15 climbers on the mountain in darkness. Of the climbers who reached the summit that day, only 11 would survive.

     The images of K2 and the mountains in The Summit are stunning, the footage from the top of K2 shot by climbers who summited that day is breathtakingly beautiful and one can understand why people put themselves into so much danger and hardship to climb tall mountains. The reconstructions, filmed on the Eiger in the Swiss Alps, are well blended into the footage shot by climbers on K2 which is of a surprisingly good quality, creating a tense and compelling presentation. This is spectacular, riveting storytelling, but the effect is undermined somewhat by the filmmakers’ decision to include, at various times, footage and interview material in connection with the 1954 Italian attempt to climb K2 and to concentrate upon one Irish climber, Ger McDonnell, and the controversy about his death.

     The result is that The Summit feels fragmented, cutting frequently between 2008 footage, reconstructions, recent interviews including with McDonnell’s family, footage of McDonnell during a 2003 Everest expedition and 1954 footage of the Italian expedition. This intercutting releases the tension; just when tension is building the film cuts away from the events on K2. The relevance of the 1954 events is that a man called Walter Bonnatti, who is also interviewed for this film, was accused of causing the death of two Italian climbers who summited by leaving them on the mountain, an accusation he strongly denies. The correlation with 2008 is that when Korean climbers were stranded on the mountain during the night and the day following the summiting, Ger McDonnell stayed to help, and perished, while another climber, Marco Confortola, is accused of descended to Camp 4. So during the film there are extensive interviews with Ger’s family, including his partner, as well of footage of them going to Pakistan as they try to find out what really happened.

     The Summit is thus uneven in its storytelling. Being an Irish production, the emphasis upon McDonnell, the first Irishman to climb K2, is understandable. Yet some of the other stories to come out of the mountain, such as Wilco van Rooijen, who survived 60 hours on the mountain at over 8200 m, and Norwegian Cecilie Skog, who was descending with her husband when he was killed in an ice fall, are powerful stories of courage and endurance upon one of the most dangerous mountains in the world. However, the retelling of the tragic events of those August days is compelling and, if nothing else, the vistas of high mountains and the majestic peak of K2 are breathtaking.

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Transfer Quality


     The Summit is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, although some of the footage is in 2.35:1, and is 16x9 enhanced.

     While the 1954 footage and some of the other footage is not pristine, most of the 2008 footage is surprisingly good while the reconstructions and interviews are sharp and finely detailed. The images of high mountains and the majestic peak of K2 are stunning. The mountains, with the snow and grey rocks dominating, are not colourful but the sky is a deep blue and the yellows, reds and greens of the climbing suits vivid. Blacks and shadow detail are good, brightness and contrast consistent.

     Other than artefacts on the archive materials, marks and artefacts are absent.

     The layer change was not noticeable.

    Subtitles in a yellow font come on automatically for non-English material or when the English is indistinct, such as sentences spoken on the mountain in a high wind.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


     Audio is an English Dolby Digital 5.1 track at 448 Kbps.

     This film mostly consists of interviews and footage taken on the mountain, so the surrounds and rears are mostly silent. However, the exceptions come as a surprise, such as the sudden crack of an avalanche or the wind in the rears, which are loud and enveloping. The sub-woofer did add bass to the avalanche, the wind, heart-beat effects and the music.

     The music score by Nick Seymour was used sparsely, but was effective.

     Lip synchronisation fine.

     The audio did what was required.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Test Shoot 2010 (9:28)

     Knowing that they would need to re-enact certain sequences, in 2010 the filmmakers went to the Eiger Mountain in the Alps to test their camera equipment and techniques at 11,000 feet. This featurette includes footage of their trip, a test sequence shot using blue and green screens and comments from Nick Ryan (director), Stephen O’Reilly (production manager), Volker Ehlers (camera) and Pat Falvey (executive producer).

Reconstruction (26:44)

     This is an interesting video diary record of the two week shoot, reconstructing events, shot in the Swiss Alps at Grindelwald. No commentary or interviews but text on the screen indicates the day and what is being filmed. Four Sherpa who had participated in the actual events on K2 were brought to Europe and seemed to be having a lot of fun.

Filming K2 (29:31)

     This is a wonderful documentary in its own right about how Ryan and cinematographer Mike Wright travelled to Pakistan, gained the cooperation of the Pakistan army and used military helicopters, with some mishaps, to gain their spectacular shots of K2.

Music by Nick Seymour (9:06)

     Australian Nick Seymour, who had played with Crowded House, with film footage and footage from his studio, provides a fascinating insight into his intentions and how the score was constructed.

Theatrical Trailer (2:05)

Madman Propaganda

     Trailers for Next Goal Wins (2:50), Generation Iron (2:22), Chasing Ice (2:24) and Blackfish (2:19).

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     Region 1 US and Region 2 UK releases of The Summit are listed but I cannot find any reviews and the listings do not show extras. I would expect that all releases are similar as I don’t imagine any would have more extras.


     The storytelling within The Summit is uneven but with actual footage of the high altitude events on K2 plus reconstructions the film is tense, compelling and beautiful to look at. One can certainly get a good idea of what it is like to climb one of the world’s highest mountains, and the view from the summit is stunning.

     The video is very good, the audio appropriate. There is an excellent range of genuine and interesting extras.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Tuesday, September 30, 2014
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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