Beyond the Edge: Tale of Hillary's triumph

It was a race between nations and against time, involving heroic trailblazing men, using cutting-edge technology to be the first to conquer an environment bitterly hostile to human life.

While this describes the space race to the Moon during the 1960s, it just as much sums up the epic journey more than a decade earlier to the summit of Mt Everest, the final frontier on Earth, which obsessed Western adventurers, often at the cost of their lives, throughout the first half of the 20th century.

It is the starring role played by Edmund Hillary, the modest, towering beekeeper from Tuakau, south of Auckland, and his story which has become part of New Zealand's history and known to virtually everyone over the past 60 years.

So it is a challenge for film-makers to tell the legend in fresh and cinematic ways, but director and co-writer Leanne Pooley has achieved it in Beyond the Edge.

The race to reach the top of the world at 8850m, almost four times higher than the Remarkables, is compellingly told in her 90-minute docudrama.

It is an almost seamless blend of original rare colour footage, newsreels, graphics and photographs and dramatised recreations, featuring actors as Hillary, the experienced Sherpa, Tenzing Norgay, of Nepal, and the rest of the 1953 British Mt Everest expedition.

New film was shot on location in the Himalayas and Hillary's old training ground of Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park.

The men involved, including Sir Ed, and their descendants and Everest mountaineers, give their testimonies in voice-overs and the film is distinguished by subtle, but breathtaking 3-D.

The story is the journey rather than the destination and the drama is in the details in Beyond the Edge.

The ''demons'' and competitive bravado which kept Hillary putting one foot in front of the other is delved into.

The life-saving comradeship between both Kiwi and Sherpa and between state-educated New Zealand mountaineers Hillary and George Lowe against their British public school graduate team mates is explored.

Other factors are also revealed, such as how Hillary and Tenzing were actually the second duo chosen to make the final push to the top and the history books, after the first, Tom Bourdillon and Charles Evans, were forced to turn back at the last 100m due to exhaustion, oxygen gear failure and lack of time.

With impeccable research and the blessing of the Hillary family, Beyond the Edge is an authoritative and engrossing film on the feat which helped forge New Zealand's identity and must be seen on the big screen.



Beyond the Edge (G)

Starring: Chad Moffitt (Edwin: My Life as a Koont), newcomer Sonam Sherpa, Erroll Shand (Harry).

Director: Leanne Pooley (The Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls, Shackleton's Captain).

Screening: Reading Cinemas Queenstown.

4 stars (out of 5)



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