Finding Michael Documentary Review, A Search on Mount Everest

I haven’t written a review on any disaster documentaries in a while. One film to catch my eye was the recently released Finding Michael. It’s the story of Spencer Matthews who sets out to find his brother Michael who died on Mount Everest. The premise is a lot better than the execution. This documentary wasn’t quite up there with something like The Summit, a documentary covering a disastrous climb on K2.

Finding Michael has a lot of heart and is cheesy at times. Is it worth your time?

What was good about Finding Michael

I am strangely a sucker for a good mountain climbing documentary. Aside from The Summit, the one about the guy who climbs mountains without any equipment is incredibly memorable. I can’t even remember what it was called. Freeloader? Something like that. Let me Google.

Free Solo! That sounds more like a category on an adult website.

Anyway, Finding Michael fulfilled my desire to watch a documentary about the very strange desire to climb mountains and put your life at risk. It’s not something I’ll ever do. Walking on a wet floor at the grocery store is my biggest adrenaline rush. I dreaded the mountain climber exercise in gym class.

The documentary has a great premise and we get to see some footage on Mount Everest. The documentary moves at an even pace. For what it is, it’s tough to find too many complaints.

Finding Michael is more uplifting than I had expected. It also has an unexpected laugh out loud moment when Spencer’s son says “Is that Mount Everest?” while at home in the United Kingdom. Spencer responds with “No, that’s a hill in Scotland” in a tone that has no sarcasm or pity. You have to wait until the end for this line.

What could have made Finding Michael better

If this was a Hollywood film, Spencer would have been there on the recovery team. He isn’t a mountain climber capable of doing so and rather than to put his own life at risk, he has some hired guns to do it for him. This did catch me by surprise. It felt more like a rich guy from Scotland paying people to find his deceased brother’s body and that was a turn-off.

Spencer does save himself later on when the mission changes. It made the trip more worthwhile for sure. At times the documentary did feel a little too “white savior-ish” in a country where many people cannot afford to bring their loved ones who die on the mountain home. I would have loved to see more about how the citizens of Nepal feel about the people who come to their country to climb the mountain. We only get a little glimpse into the life of sherpas.

By the time the documentary was over I did feel as if much of what happened was staged. Spencer’s interaction with his wife feels rehearsed. It probably was. Something more authentic, even if it ended up being a sloppier film, could’ve given this a different feel. Too many minor things happened too conveniently. For instance, in the middle of talking to the camera, Spencer receives a radio call from the mountain that has him thinking they have found Michael.

Getting to know others featured in the film would have added to the element of danger and care from the audience. Perhaps I was just looking for something more cinematic in the way things unfolded. Instead, we get a story that could’ve been told quickly.

Is Finding Michael worth watching?

I teetered a little bit with this one and came to the conclusion you should watch it. The beautiful landscapes alone are worth the viewing. You might not feel good at the end, however, you feel like something was accomplished.

Overall Score: 6 out of 10

Finding Michael won’t take your breath away (was that a pun?). The sense of danger lacks even though it’s present. What saves this is the realization that this is more of a family-friendly take on an unfortunate story of a man who lost his life. Accept this and you can appreciate the film.

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