- on Friday, 18 September 2015 17:14
- by Frank Wilkins
Everest, the new film that recounts the tragic true-life events surrounding the 1996 attempt by several groups of climbers to scale the world’s tallest mountain, has an inherent complication. One that often spells doom for most motion pictures.
But because director Baltasar Kormákur (2 Guns, Contraband) so skillfully handles nearly every one of the film’s other aspects – especially the majesty and dignity of the mountain itself, the problem is only a minor annoyance. The story’s characters spend much of the time bundled in heavy parkas, reflective climbing goggles, and face-covering masks which renders them virtually unrecognizable as living characters. Viewing tip: taking careful notice of clothing style and color markings of the climbers will help in identification once total hell breaks loose at the top of the mountain.
The climbers are a group of individual private adventurers, each of whom paid $65,000 to live out their life’s dream of taking on Earth’s most challenging conditions – conditions which are averse to human life – with hopes of reaching the top of the world. On an actual climb, all but one or two of the expedition’s 45 days are spent acclimatizing to the thin-aired environment which basically means they do nothing. In Everest, much if that time is skimmed over, but it allows us to get to know climbers Beck Weathers (Josh Brolin) a brash Texas pathologist, postal worker and common man Doug Hanson (John Hawkes), magazine journalist on assignment John Krakauer (Michael Kelly), and Yasuko Namba (Naoko Mori), a Japanese climber looking to check off Everest as the last of her seven ascents on Earth’s seven continents.
Expedition guides Rob Hall (Jason Clarke), the safety-conscious and meticulous leader of New Zealand-based Adventure Consultants, and reckless but endearing Mountain Madness owner Scott Fischer (Jake Gyllenhaal) round out the group of principal climbers. The seasoned guides act as somewhat of a stabilizing and comforting force as they prepare the climbers for the adventure of their lives. Survival will literally depend on their technical and decision-making skills which makes it all the more troubling when those skills, coupled with a series of red flags – from improper rope preparation to over-crowding and ignored final descent curfew – let down the entire expedition and result in Everest’s biggest tragedy to date.
In one telling scene, Rob Hall interrupts two of the climbers as they calculate their odds of making it to the top. “It’s up to you to get to the top, it’s my job top get you down safely,” he says. But, reflecting many of the film’s themes, including those stoked by the arrogance of humans and the insignificance of man against nature, Hall and Fischer ignore their own intuition and push the limits to get their paying customers to the summit. Not surprising, the pressure of commercial success overrides the need for caution.
Women are mostly in supporting roles including Emily Watson, who holds her own amongst the overabundant machismo as Hall’s business partner and base camp manager Helen Wilton. Robin Wright is Peach Weathers, Beck’s reluctant but resourceful wife, and Keira Knightley holds down the home front as Hall’s pregnant spouse.
Kormákur allows us to enjoy these opening moments of friendship and camaraderie, as brief as they are, and encourages us to relish the relative solitude of nature’s beauty before the doomed mission gets underway. We know there will be very little of either once nature inflicts the worst kind of black-hearted meanness in the form of a storm of the century that traps the ill-fated expedition in the mountain’s death zone. Filmed on location and in green-screen studios, we’re floored by Kormákur’s incredible views from atop the planet’s highest peak. But that elation is suddenly gut-punched with little warning.
It would be ideal to spend a bit more time with the film’s characters as identity building is the film’s weakest link. But at just over two hours, the correct decision was made to spend the time on the disaster itself. Though it becomes a bit difficult to follow the thread of events, and recognizing characters amongst the building chaos is nearly impossible, no amount of extra time would fix the issue. It’s just the nature of characters covered in gear in minus 30º F temperatures.
Kormákur’s direction is brilliant, as he shows on more than one occasion, that he understands the importance of juxtaposing man’s insignificance against nature’s vastness in a film like this. His mountain becomes its most powerful star. Do yourself a favor and plop down the few extra bucks to take in Everest in the iMax 3D format. You’ll be glad you did.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense peril and disturbing images
Runtime: 121 mins
Director: Baltasar Kormákur
Writer: William Nicholson, Simon Beaufoy
Cast: Jason Clarke, Jake Gyllenhaal, Emily Watson
Genre: Adventure | Thriller
Tagline: Never let go.
Memorable Movie Quote: "It’s up to you to get to the top, it’s my job top get you down safely."
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Official Site: http://www.everestmovie.com/
Release Date: September 18, 2015
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: No details available.
Synopsis: Inspired by the incredible events surrounding an attempt to reach the summit of the world's highest mountain, Everest documents the awe-inspiring journey of two different expeditions challenged beyond their limits by one of the fiercest snowstorms ever encountered by mankind. Their mettle tested by the harshest elements found on the planet, the climbers will face nearly impossible obstacles as a lifelong obsession becomes a breathtaking struggle for survival.
No details available.