Everest Movie Review
An experience to experience, Everest is a breathtaking adventure-drama about men pushed past their limit in a place man was never meant to be. Based in part on Jon Krakauer’s acclaimed Into Thin Air, a firsthand account of a tragic attempt to climb Mt. Everest, Everest is a big-screen spectacle that, while not perfect, is an exciting and vivid depiction of high-altitude mountain climbing and the accompanying risks.
Set in 1996, Everest chronicles the series of events that lead to what was at the time the deadliest incident on the mountain. While the movie doesn’t stick to all the facts, understandably, director Baltasar Kormakur (2 Guns) captures the intensity and depravity of mountain climbing. Meant to be seen in big-screen format (read: IMAX), Everest is beautiful and epic in scale. Whether the skies are clear or the Himalayan gods are unleashing their fury, you feel as though you are on the mountain.
Impressively, Kormakur is patient with his delivery--the first half of the movie largely consists of people talking in tents, foreshadowing how quickly things can turn for the worse. While the movie fails to hit upon one underlying cause of the disaster--that the commercialization of Mt. Everest not only leads to unprepared people on the mountain but monetary pressures that can override survival instincts--Everest wisely and patiently sets up the various characters. Few are fleshed out to any great extent, but they are developed enough for the movie’s purposes.
Clarke, known best for prominent supporting turns in films like Zero Dark Thirty, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and, sadly, Terminator: Genisys, takes full advantage of a rare leading role. The supporting cast, including Emily Watson, John Hawkes, Josh Brolin and Keira Knightley, also deliver fine performances, though it’s Jake Gyllenhaal, who plays competing guide Scott Fischer, makes the most of his limited screen time.
Everest isn’t without a few issues. The emphasis on the relationship between Hall and his wife (Knightley) is overly melodramatic and seems out of place with the rest of the movie, though it pays dividends in the end. Less engrossing are the exchanges between Beck Weathers (Brolin) and his wife (Robin Wright), and the film would undeniably have been better had she been cut entirely.
Still, Everest--especially in the second half--is a nail-biting affair that will have you reaching for your carabineer. The movie works best as a visceral thriller than an emotional drama, and as such it doesn’t quite climb to the heights of Oscar quality, but it’s an exciting experience.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.