Purja’s tender side shows in the scenes with his ailing mother, Purna Kumari Purja. Days after being discharged from the hospital, she gets on a helicopter to meet her son after he climbs his 14th eight-thousander. Later, at Kathmandu Airport, Purja tells reporters how a Western climber doing what he did would have got “ten times more publicity”.
At 101 minute documentary has stayed in the Top 5 on Netflix for weeks, and touches on a lot of things: the financial burden of accomplishing such a monumental task, the physical and mental challenges of climbing, personal relationships, philosophical questions on mortality, power of social media in today’s age and navigating the bureaucracy.
The documentary also attempts to address the criticism Purja faced for using bottled oxygen, with many ‘purists’ saying that disqualified his feat. Surprisingly, it is Reinhold Messner who himself climbed the 14 peaks without oxygen, but taking 16 years to do it, who defends Purja: “He was doing it this way otherwise it is not possible in such a short time.”
What next for Reinhald Messner?, Kunda Dixit
Most of the film’s climbing footage is taken by Purja and his team. Director Torquil Jones juxtaposes these with fresh interviews from the team, Purja’s family and other mountaineers, and animations (which could have been better quality) for some near-death experiences.
Watching 14 Peaks is like watching a shōnen anime, with an underdog protagonist who has the odds stacked against him. Like every hero, Purja has a dream. For Naruto it was becoming a hokage, for Luffy it is becoming the Pirate King, and for Nimsdai Purja, it is climbing all the eight thousanders in record time.
With 14 climbs and their back stories, there was not enough time dedicated to specific mountains, team mates, or the specific challenges on each mountain. But for a genre that often focuses on individual feats, 14 Peaks goes beyond to show how far mountaineering has come from the days of the first industrial scale expeditions on the world’s tallest mountains.