Hwang Jung-min takes the lead in his second box office smash hit of the year (currently outperforming Star Wars: Episode VII) and fresh off the heels of his stellar performance in Veteran this past summer.
In The Himalayas, he plays Hong-gil, a seasoned mountaineer and respected captain of an alpine expedition team who aims to summit 14 of the world’s highest mountain peaks (all of which are located in the Himalayan mountain range) and join the ranks of only a handful of climbers who have ever accomplished this amazing feat. He and his team are a charismatic and lively bunch who somewhat reluctantly accept junior members Park Moon-taek (Jung Woo) and Park Jung-bok (Kim In-kwon) to join them in their record-breaking attempts.
The film has three distinct acts which fit together into a very enjoyable package and achieves an overall great sense of pacing. The first part of the film could be called “fun survival”, as we meet the team and watch the highly ambitious and often humorous junior members Moon-taek and Jung-bok undergo a hazing of sorts. Their strength and endurance are tested to make sure they have what it takes to become a truly elite Aplinist. It is here where the strong brotherly bond between Hong-gil and Moon-taek is formed, which sets the tone for the dramatic second and third acts.
The second part of The Himalayas has a shift in tone as the characters mature and accomplish some amazing feats (even more amazing being a true story), all while delivering some breathtaking images of the peerless Himalayan landscape. We also have some amazing camera work that really gets you feeling like you are climbing these icy giants along with the characters. So if you are fearful of heights, make sure you have someone to grab a hold of during your viewing.
Without spoiling what is fairly common knowledge (at least in Korea), this second act of the film could be called “the accident”, and could easily have been the climax of any other survival or adventure film about extreme climbing; but is instead the fulcrum for an even more dramatic series of events that made this such a sensational story and thus become the focus of the film’s final and most important act.
The final part of the film could be called “the rescue” and is rightly filled with the most dramatic and powerful scenes of the whole film. As the climbers assemble to attempt a rather unheard of expedition up to the “death zone” of Everest at over 8,000 meters in order to retrieve the bodies of their ill-fated companions. This part of the film will have you feeling bad about ever complaining of being cold, as the sub-zero temperatures and snow storms wreak havoc on the climbers frost bitten limbs. It becomes an overall fairly emotional and gripping finale anchored by solid performances from each member of the ensemble cast of climbers.
The Himalayas shows the true strength of what the human body can endure and will instill (at least in me) a new-found respect for the extreme sport of mountaineering. It is also another addition to a number of commercial films coming out of Korea in recent times that are filled with elements of Korean pride and appeal to the nationalistic and unified spirit of the people. The performances from the actors and great pacing of the film earn The Himalayas a high recommendation!
Sounds like a great film! Hope this makes the Indi-film theatre here, can’t wait to watch it.
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