(2019) Documentary (Believe Ltd.) Chris Bombardier, Laurie Kelley, Jessica Bombardier, Om Krishna, Alan Bombardier, Rilen Jangbu Tashi Sherpa, Ryan Waters, Val Bias, Cathy Bombardier, Donna DiMichelle, Amy Board, Michael Wang, Marilyn Manco-Johnson, Sue Geraghty, Sharon Funk. Directed by Patrick James Lynch
Some people take on challenges to test their limits. Others, because they want to prove to themselves that they can do it. However, there are those who take on challenges to inspire others. These are what become (or should be) role models.
Chris Bombardier is such a man. The 31-year-old (at the time of filming) Coloradan has set a goal of climbing the highest peaks on each continent – the so-called Seven Summits. This isn’t unusual for the more intrepid mountain climbers, but Chris is a little different – he has hemophilia.
For those who are unaware, hemophilia is a genetic blood disorder in which the sufferer is born without a clotting agent – usually Factor VIII or Factor IX. About one in 10,000 people have it. It was once called the Royal Disease because several royal families in Europe had it, including the Romanovs of Russia, whose heir to the thrown Alexei famously suffered from it, pushing the tsarina Alexandra to bring in a faith healer when doctors were unable to ease her son’s suffering – a healer named Grigori Rasputin.
A century after those days, modern medicine has been able to give hemophiliacs fairly normal lives. A pharmaceutical firm, Octopharm, has been able to produce the two clotting agents which hemophiliacs must periodically inject into themselves, the same way a diabetic injects themselves with insulin. However, those who live in less developed countries don’t have access to these clotting factors. Bombardier works with a non-profit, Save One Life, that is dedicated to getting the medicine to those who are unable to afford it or live in areas where getting the medical treatment isn’t possible. Without the clotting factors, the disease can be deadly
So, Chris has taken on climbing the Seven Summits in order to call attention to hemophilia; on one hand, to show hemophiliacs that they can live normal, athletic lives if they so choose but also to bring the work of Save One Life to the attention of the world. He has already succeeded with several of the peaks. Now he is ready to take on the highest peak in the world, with its own set of challenges – Everest.
As Chris has two concurrent goals for his climb, the film has really two parts. The first part talks about hemophilia, Save One Life and Octopharm, as well as introducing us to Chris who chose to live a healthy, physically fit life, playing baseball until college. The second half is about the climb. This isn’t a nail-biting, will-he-do-it type of movie; the second half is less a thriller than a travelogue. However, Chris and his wife Jess come off as an admirable, compassionate couple. Sure, Jess worries about her husband – it would just take one accident on the peak to put Chris into serious trouble – but she supports who he is and indeed, loves him for it.
The movie isn’t so much about Chris climbing Everest as it is about the mountains we all have to climb. In that sense, this is an inspirational film that gives us motivation to scale those peaks even if they seem insurmountable. There is certainly nothing wrong with a movie that can do that.
REASONS TO SEE: Lots of good information about hemophilia.
REASONS TO AVOID: Doesn’t get to the mountain climbing until about halfway through, acting almost as an infomercial for Octopharm and Save One Life until then.
FAMILY VALUES: There are some disturbing medical photos.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The executive producer is Alex Borstein of Family Guy and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel fame.
BEYOND THE THEATERS: Amazon, AppleTV, Fandango Now, Google Play, YouTube
CRITICAL MASS: As of 9/10/20: Rotten Tomatoes: No score yet, Metacritic: No score yet
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Beyond Skiing Everest
FINAL RATING: 6.5/10