Starring Josh Brolin, Jason Clarke, Jake Gyllenhaal, John Hawkes, Emily Watson, Robin Wright, Keria Knightley, Sam Worthington
This isn’t Vertical Limit nor is this just another mindless disaster movie. Icelandic director Baltasar Kormákur (The Deep, 2 Guns) has set out, not only to capture the tragic events of the 1996 climb, but to explore the various types of people who want to risk their lives to survive Everest. What caught my attention initially about Everest is the order of the cast names, Gyllenhaal isn’t top billed which says a lot of Kormákur’s assembly in casting, for those of us unfamiliar with the story it also means no character is guaranteed to make it out alive. The filmmaking team manage to use 3D, IMAX and especially sound effects to help the viewer understand the desperate conditions.
Rob Hall (Clarke) is taking a group up to summit Everest, at nearly 16K per person, their lives are literally in his hands. This will be his 5th trip to the top of the world’s tallest mountain, 29,029 feet above sea level. His company include Doug Hansen (Hawkes) who failed to reach the summit previously but it back for one last try. A depressed climber from Dallas, Beck Weathers (Brolin), who only finds clarity when risking his life. Hall’s team joins with rival Scott Fischer (Gyllenhaal) who has a more carefree view of the treacherous journey. Three teams aim for a May 10th summit date making the mountain very crowded. Hall’s trusted mother figure Helen Wilton (Watson) informs the groups of a deadly storm about to hit just as they begin their decent, making this one of the most tragic climbs in history.
The sound mixing and editing really bring the viewer into the experience more so than the gimmicky 3D effects.
“The last word always belongs to the mountain.” Ironically a movie about the worst disaster on Everest changed in 2014 when an avalanche killed more people than the story detailed here. The screenplay tries to understand the reasons behind the men and woman who would dare to face the mountain. 120 bodies still lie frozen on Everest today. It also inadvertently serves as a warning to those who might dare add Everest to a bucket list. There is more ego on the journey than there is snow as we come to understand that reaching such heights is a business, one even the guides seem willing to die for. Nothing brings the viewer into the situation more so than the relationship between Rob and his wife Jan (Knightley).
Everest becomes a gut wrenching cinematic experience with every step that at times is painful to watch. I can’t recall a film in which the detail of frozen, torn skin is visualized. The sound mixing and editing really bring the viewer into the experience more so than the gimmicky 3D effects. This becomes a more effective disaster film than something like San Andreas because it chooses to focus on the emotion of the situation and the brutality of Mother Nature. Yet the thriller (and the audience) is always mindful these climbers put themselves in this situation and it certainly works on your sympathy for the characters.
Painful to watch at times it feels so real.