Directed by Baltasar Kormakur.
Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Josh Brolin, Jason Clarke, John Hawkes, Keira Knightley, Robin Wright, Emily Watson, Clive Standen, Michael Kelly and Sam Worthington.
A climbing expedition on Mt. Everest is devastated by a severe snow storm.
Mother Nature is a bitch – words that consistently kept coming to mind over and over again while watching Everest, the true story documenting over 20-something average-Joes in 1996 fascinated with climbing the 29,000 foot mountain to its summit, with the help of a bunch of different tour guides to train and assist.
What should leap right out at anyone reading this review, is that yes, this movie features over 20 characters along for the perilous ride, all interacting with one another. Something like that isn’t easy to pull off with successfully defined characters, and in this case it’s not accomplished. Everest features a whole lot of people willingly placing themselves in danger for reasons that are glossed over in one scene in a tent that lasts maybe two minutes.
The result is that even with a top to bottom cast full of recognizable names such as Jason Clarke, Jake Gyllenhaal, Josh Brolin, Keira Knightley, Emily Watson, and even more, no one really gets a chance to outshine the other besides Clarke who assumes the protagonist role as the key tour guide with a wife and unborn daughter to reach home safely. It’s really, really hard to waste Gyllenhaal (the man has just been phenomenally disappearing into roles lately) but Everest does so, making you wonder what attracted him to the script. If he were a key character given enough importance to dive into his method acting ways, I could see it, but he’s no different from anyone else thrusting themselves into danger.
Where Everest makes up for one-note human characters is with the titular mountain itself, which basically decided to throw a huge hissy fit, endangering the lives and eventually killing many on their way down from the summit. Obviously, most of the movie wasn’t filmed on location but that doesn’t stop the gorgeous snowy scenery from resembling the real thing and looking beautiful nevertheless. Beautiful but deadly; a dangerous combination.
Everest also thrives on atmosphere, featuring strong gusts of wind often drowning out dialogue, allowing us to better get a sense of the peril. It’s no surprise that things go very, very south in this movie, but when it does, every harmful act from nature successfully makes you worry about the safety of these characters.
Half of the time you won’t be able to tell one from the other unless you are very good at memorizing which color jacket everyone is wearing, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to care about these people. Without much to do in terms of character, the actors do make the most of what development they are given which in turn makes us care, even though once again, you aren’t always sure who is who. In a movie where it’s legitimately tough to keep track of the numerous characters, it is a good thing that everyone is at least likable on a surface level. When someone is potentially facing death, we become filled with dread and hope they survive.
If Everest deserves praise in one area above all else, it’s due to the fact that the movie doesn’t hammer home heavy-handed sentimental storytelling, but rather opts for a very earnest attempt at creating awareness for how dangerous not only climbing the mountain is, but how the body functions facing extreme freezing weather at ridiculously high altitudes. People cough up blood, lose their vision, and even literally freeze to death, and it’s all a horrifying sight to witness simply because the movie restrains itself from getting over-dramatic. Whether or not these people are stupid with way too much free time on their hands is still up to you, but there’s no denying that the danger involved should go unnoticed.
Ending on both beats of tragedy and triumph, Everest does justice to the true story. Some make the decision to climb the mountain, and not everyone comes home, but their bravery, whether they come home dead or alive, still should be commended. Everest is one of the most enjoyable natural disaster films in years thanks to its humanistic approach in creating awareness to a truly death-defying activity. It feels very real, especially in IMAX 3-D. It’s a hell of a lot more entertaining than showing Earth crumble apart once a year or tornadoes leveling cities, all with stereotypical vessels for protagonists.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder – An aficionado of film, wrestling, and gaming. Follow me on Twitter or friend me on Facebook