DOC NYC 2021: ’14 Peaks: Nothing Is Impossible’ Is an Inspiring Spectacle

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14 Peaks: Nothing Is Impossible

There’s a total of 14 mountains over 8,000 meters tall, also known as eight-thousanders, in the world. Before 2020, 41 climbers had managed to reach the summit of every one of those mountains, and the fastest (Kim Chang-ho) had done so in 7 years, ten months, and six days. In 2019, Nirmal “Nims” Purja shattered that record by ascending all fourteen eight-thousanders in just six months and six days. The Netflix documentary 14 Peaks: Nothing Is Impossible tells the story behind this incredible feat.

I can picture Free Solo and The Rescue director Jimmy Chin—who is a fellow climber, as well as a producer and talking head of this film—salivating at the prospect of being involved in a project of this nature with such a tremendous character at its core. Nims is a charismatic, fearless, and positive man with the energy of a kid and a “giving up is not in the blood” motto. 

When everyone was skeptical at the idea of climbing all 14 eight-thousanders in just seven months, Nims only seemed more motivated to achieve his goal and even renamed it “Project Possible.” As his wife explains with a mix of love and confidence, Nims is a very resolute human being whose fire could only be quenched by a tragedy, which unfortunately arrives when his mother’s health starts to deteriorate. This doesn’t stop him but definitely becomes a constant preoccupation for Nims throughout the journey. Director Torquil Jones does a great job of exploring the climber’s family ties and love for his mother, which helps the audience empathize with him and, for storytelling purposes, becomes yet another motivation for you to root for him.

But of course, we are all here to see an almost superhuman being achieving the impossible, which the film delivers with lots of high-altitude adrenaline. Jones follows Nims and his team of Sherpas—Lakpa Dendi, Mingma Gyabu “David” Sherpa, Geljen Sherpa, and Tensi Kasang—as they travel to Nepal, Pakistan, and China to conquer the most dangerous mountains in record time, which include the deadly K2, the Nanga Parbat aka “Killer Mountain,” and the mighty Mount Everest. With additional support from drone shots and footage filmed by Nims himself, the astonishing cinematography highlights the difficulty of the task at hand while providing an incredible level of intimacy. I don’t usually say something like this, but it’s a shame the film won’t have a larger theatrical run because its immersive visuals would’ve probably provided an unforgettable experience on a gigantic screen.

As if climbing these behemoths wasn’t enough, Nims provides extra entertainment and awe as he puts his life at risk to try to save stranded climbers, you know, while he’s in the neighborhood. He also reaches one summit while hungover and later on, he throws a party with a bunch of fellow climbers and inspires them to climb with him the next day during one particularly dangerous period. The man is like the main character of a Steven Spielberg adventure film.

It might sound like Nims’ confidence could turn into arrogance or selfishness at any point, but that’s never the case. In fact, a consequence of his selflessness becomes a refreshing factor and central point of 14 Peaks: Nothing Is Impossible. As The Simpsons episode “King of the Hill” portrays amusingly, the importance of Sherpas tends to be overlooked, particularly by White western climbers. Nims tries to fight against this by constantly highlighting his team of Sherpas and talking about the importance of this achievement for Nepal. Project Possible isn’t just for Nims; it’s to exalt his country and his people.

Torquil captures all these powerful moments and amplifies them with the help of excited talking heads and voiceover by Nims himself. Animation is superbly used to illustrate not-caught-on-camera moments and dynamically provide essential explanations. The editing team keeps the excitement flowing and makes sure to treat every mountain as a different challenge. Still, the quick pace does hurt the overall purpose of the documentary as it lessens the impact of certain milestones.

Numerous flashbacks explain Nims’ modest background, his service for the British Army, and his burgeoning love for mountaineering. The mountain climbing is so exciting that this back-and-forth feels a little intrusive; however, it’s an effective tool to create breathing room and avoid repeatability.

14 Peaks: Nothing Is Impossible is a stunning spectacle that highlights the unbreakable spirit of a historic climber while making sure to present his humanity and vulnerabilities. Despite lacking some drama, it’s an entertaining watch that should keep your eyes and mouth wide open as you see the impossible become possible.

14 Peaks: Nothing Is Impossible screened at DOC NYC 2021 and will be available on Netflix on November 29.


14 Peaks: Nothing Is Impossible
  • 8.5/10
    Rating - 8.5/10
8.5/10

TL;DR

14 Peaks: Nothing Is Impossible is a stunning spectacle that highlights the unbreakable spirit of a historic climber while making sure to present his humanity and vulnerabilities. Despite lacking some drama, it’s an entertaining watch that should keep your eyes and mouth wide open as you see the impossible become possible.

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