Brad Pitt follows in the goose steps of Ralph Fiennes and Liam Neeson here as the real-life Heinrich Harrer, a remote, fame-addicted 27-year-old whose arduous Himalayan trek gradually leads him to the Dalai Lama and spiritual enlightenment. And a gorgeous, richly costumed, historically detailed and eventful journey it is, too.
Unfortunately, Harrer's inner struggle isn't as grand as the sweep of Jean-Jacques Annaud's direction. And it's not easy to like the self-centered Harrer, even if he is pretty and even if you can forget that he's a storm trooper. Although his hugely pregnant wife is devastated by his departure, he makes no attempt to comfort her before setting off with Peter Aufschnaiter (David Thewlis), the expedition's level-headed leader.
Their object, to scale Nanga Parbat, has become a German obsession and Harrer, who's carrying a swastika-emblazoned flag, is determined to plant it come Hell or high winds. During the misguided assault, Harrer badgers Aufschnaiter and endangers the other climbers and their bearers.
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