Directed by Baltasar Kormákur.
Starring Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin, Jake Gyllenhaal, Emily Watson, John Hawkes, Michael Kelly, Keira Knightley, Robin Wright, Sam Worthington and Naoko Mori.
A climbing expedition on Mt. Everest is devastated by a severe snow storm.
The fascination with climbing Mt. Everest is one that has been marvelled at for years. Set in 1996 when people would pay tens of thousands to be led by a guide up the highest and most dangerous peak in the world, Everest details the devastating events of Rob Hall (Clarke) and Scott Fischer (Gyllenhaal). Two experienced mountaineers who led 2 teams up the mountain with tragic consequences.
From the off we’re thrust into the freezing temperatures of the mountain and then we backtrack to see how each of the climbers got there. The first hour of the film is unusually the most interesting; from the initial meeting of the group, through to the challenges of progressing up each stage of Everest, Kormakur constantly reinforces the dangers of the climb albeit hypothermia, exhaustion, coughing up blood and so on. These scenes are the most intense to watch and the most engrossing. A heart stopping moment from the trailer where Josh Brolin’s Texan climber Beck get stuck across a giant crevasse is breath-taking in IMAX 3D and reinforces the sheer magnitude of the task at hand.
Upon arriving at the base camp it’s so busy you’d think that everyone was getting their tents up for Glastonbury. There are people from all over the world, different guides with different styles all trying to make the climb. The emphasis here is on the business of climbing Everest with people paying around $65,000 for the privilege. Whilst Hall and Fischer would only take experienced climbers, there are scenes of people who’ve never climbed before taking on the challenge as a viewer it seems laughable at first until you remember that this film is based on true events. It is fascinating to see the preparation and dedication that goes into the climb as is the rivalry between the teams.
Everest starts to falter once the teams make their way down the mountain. From mistakes such as not adhering to the turnaround time, to bad weather, ropes in need of repair and simply the limitations of the human body, the inevitable disaster unfolds as you would expect. Whilst visually tense and beautiful, the biggest flaw of the film is the lack of characterisation. Each actor puts in a good performance but we know so little about each of them that it makes it hard to care about their fate. Another big issue is that they are all dressed nearly identical so it’s only if they remove their masks that you can see who’s who. Ultimately this leaves several of the deaths with little to no emotional impact as the audience hasn’t been allowed to develop a bond with each character.
Emily Watson’s Base Camp Manager Helen does most of the emotional heavy lifting. Even still, she is reduced to communicating through radios and conveying fear across her face. She is great in the role and her accent is spot on, it’s just a shame that there wasn’t enough development of the characters to make us feel for each of them. Clarke as lead mountaineer Rob Hall is likeable and honourable to a fault. He knows he’s making a mistake and yet does it anyway out of loyalty to a friend. He’s kind hearted which makes his struggle to survive the only effecting emotional punch of the film.
The real star of the film is Everest herself. Towering above the skyline and breaking each climber with every shift of ice and snow; she is a sight to behold and the most complex and well thought out character of the film. The visuals and the direction of Everest are phenomenal and worth the extra money to go to IMAX 3D alone. The sweeping shots of the vast canyons and ice mountains are terrifying and beautiful at the same time. The thunderous music was almost too much for the speakers in the theatre but it was perfectly in tune with the events and it was as if you were encapsulated by the storm along with the climbers.
Before the expedition gets going, a Writer who has joined them (Michael Kelly) asks each of the team why they want to climb Everest, their answer is simply “Because it’s there”. With such beauty and treachery at the same time, there are moments where Everest will grip you, but ultimately the lack of characterisation is too big a flaw to overcome.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★/ Movie: ★ ★ ★
Helen Murdoch is a freelance writer – Follow me on Twitter