In a world of countless adventure documentaries, 2.5 Million (dir. Tyler Wilkinson-Ray), follows the trials and tribulations of Aaron Rice on his quest to become the first person to ever climb 2.5 million human-powered vertical feet within one year–the equivalent of climbing Mt. Everest over 200 times.
A seemingly endless parade of skiing films populate the festival circuit in the adventure documentary category, but 2.5 Million has everything that an audience member could ask for. Not only does Rice’s enduring perseverance inspire–through struggles including illness and a broken hand–but the film also elicits a visceral response during its comedic moments. That comedy is very natural and not overdone. Rice becomes increasingly more relatable to the audience in these moments, and one of the most compelling elements is his ability to stay positive through a tough situation. His resolve epitomizes of Mountainfilm’s belief in embracing adventure. Some people may have given up after missing four full days of climbing like Rice did, but for him, the delay only increased his determination: he never lost confidence in his ability to reach his goals. Rice’s keep-going-at-all-costs attitude was inspiring in a way that seems attainable, rather than impossible.
Tim Wilkinson-Ray’s skillful use of cinematography is exhibited in 2.5 Million. Various types of cameras are used, from handheld to drones and even moments that were shot by Rice himself. What Wilkinson-Ray does differently from other sports adventure films is the way he handles action footage. It is easy to overdo action shots in adventure films and lose substance to the story. But in this case, Wilkinson-Ray manages to utilize footage of Rice skiing in a way that fits into the story rather than being excessive or confusing.
Some of the most beautiful shots of the film occur in the moments between the action with Rice climbing up to the summits and growing ever-closer to his 2.5-million-foot goal. These moments are executed with wide-angle shots that include not only Rice but also the numerous mountains that he climbed throughout the year. These shots shrink Rice’s image to emphasize the majesty and magnitude of the feat that Rice is attempting. Wilkinson-Ray keeps the action and story perfectly balanced and would be a good reference point for filmmakers creating films of the same category.
As a person who couldn’t really say that she is a big fan of the sports adventure subset of documentaries, I thoroughly enjoyed 2.5 Million and would absolutely recommend it to anyone who loves adventure films and likable protagonists.