High Ground


‘I feel like I’ve lived up my life; the tank is empty,” declares an Iraq War Marine veteran who has traveled to Nepal to climb a mountain and—he hopes—find a new beginning for himself. He’s joined by nine other Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, plus the mother of a fallen soldier, all of whom bear the scars of war—the kind you can see and the kind you can’t. These 11 men and women tell their stories as they make their way to Mount Lobuche, the 20,000-foot peak located near Mount Everest, which they’ll climb as a team. In this impressively restrained documentary, director and veteran climber Michael Brown, making his feature debut, allows each soldier to privately recount his or her own war story, which include harrowing tales of lost eyesight, lost limbs, and most painful of all, lost comrades. From its low-key, guitar-based score by composer Chris Bacon to the filmmaker’s refusal to sugar-coat the tough times some of the soldiers faced after completing the climb, High Ground takes its cues from the worldview of its subjects. These brave souls let themselves experience joy when they reach the mountaintop, even as they acknowledge the hard truths that await them far below.