As the mountaineering genre continues its ascent into the mainstream, there’s a thesis awaiting a graduate student about male climbers and their mothers, wives or partners. Touched on in the Oscar winner “Free Solo” and summer’s “The Alpinist,” those relationships get screen time in “14 Peaks: Nothing Is Impossible,” about the Nepalese climber Nirmal Purja, known as Nimsdai, and his attempt to summit the world’s 14 highest peaks in seven months. (The previous record was seven years.) While his wife, Suchi Purja, charmingly attempts to explain her husband’s embrace of risk to civilians, it’s his ailing mother who underscores more tender lessons about her son’s drive but also about the mortality we all face.
As a young man, Purja enlisted in his country’s legendary armed forces, the Gurkhas, and later joined the United Kingdom Special Forces. He seized on the climbing endeavor, which he called “Project Possible,” as a way to highlight the contributions of Nepalese mountaineers, who are more than the Sherpas to Western expeditions. Early on, the project’s four other climbers — Mingma David Sherpa, Geljen Sherpa, Lakpa Dendi Sherpa and Gesman Tamang — get introduced as vital characters. They are as devoted to Purja’s seemingly mad mission as he is.
Much of the documentary’s climbing footage was taken by Purja and his team. The director Torquil Jones uses those images, as well as fresh interviews (the alpine legend Reinhold Messner waxing beautifully existential) and some vivid animation to craft a documentary exploring themes of generosity, danger, drive and national character.
In widening its aperture — from the ascents to visits to Purja’s childhood home as well as brief dives into Nepal’s history — “14 Peaks” expands a genre often focused on the feats of individuals to celebrate lessons about vast dreams and communal bonds.
14 Peaks: Nothing Is Impossible
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 39 minutes. Watch on Netflix.
Apsny News English