In 1996, a group of mountaineer guides and their clients climbed Mount Everest, only to be stuck in the middle of a dangerous blizzard that tested everyone and proved to be fatal to some. The subject of a few TV movies and books, it’s now known as the 1996 Mount Everest Disaster and documented in Everest, a very realistic big screen adaptation by director Baltasar Kormákur (2 Guns, Contraband) that boasts a lot of snow, beards, and isn’t as character-oriented as it should have been.
Rob Hall (Jason Clarke) is an accomplished New Zealand mountaineer who has his own business, Adventure Consultants, his job to safely take his clients to the top and back down safely. Scaling the world’s highest summits is being commercialized and doesn’t come cheap (a steep asking price of $65,000! In 1996!). His wife Jan, a mountaineer as well as a doctor, stays behind on this trip because she’s pregnant with the couple’s first child and Rob is offered too good of a deal by journalist Jon Krakauer (Michael Kelly) to take him to the top of the mountain in exchange for ad space and so of course he won’t say no to that.
With several clients including Beck Weathers (Josh Brolin), Doug Hansen (John Hawkes), Yasuko Namba (Naoko Mori), Hall’s coworkers, Helen (Emily Watson), Guy Cotter (Sam Worthington), and Rob’s business competition Scott Fischer (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Anatoli Boukreev (Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson), the various groups make their way up the mountain over the course of 40 days. All this while making sure to stave off dangers off hypothermia, cerebral edema, and a hundred others things that could get you killed in such conditions, but no matter what, one thing they can’t battle is nature.
The cinematography is gorgeous. The open spaces, views, and the way the mountain can look beautiful and treacherous at the same time is wonderfully laid out before us in striking detail–something IMAX 3D is really useful for movies like this. Whether or not you know a lot about the story before going in, it’s obvious that it’s going to be a tragic one. That much is clear from the beginning, but other than being sad and very, very realistic in its portrayal of the events (you won’t find here crazy heroics or people jumping across mountains for daring rescues), Everest is thin on everything else.
The entire cast puts in the work and delivers good performances, but it’s the script itself that doesn’t give them too much to work with in terms of any character depth. The fact that the topic of commercializing Everest treks is discussed but never expanded upon is a shame. Why do the characters spend that much money and risk their lives doing something like this is brushed upon, but we’re never given a clear or thoughtful answer from anyone. So we’re never quite on the edge of our seats when the blizzard hits. And in the cacophony of the harsh blizzard, all the characters are as lost to us as they are to the harshness of nature. You won’t be able to recognize who’s who at one point and this creates a distance between you and the characters.
Everest isn’t a bad film, but it’s just average. Kormákur takes too long to get anything going and everything goes wrong as soon as they hit the top of the mountain so there really isn’t enough buildup before things spiral out of control. The characters and their interactions are what should have held this movie together, but there is unfortunately not enough depth to any of them. As a thriller, it’s not much of one. But although you can appreciate the fact that the events of the film stay relatively true to what actually happened and the technical aspects of the film are fantastic, it’s still disappointing that the characters aren’t given enough attention.
Release Date: September 18, 2015 | Director: Baltasar Kormákur | Screenwriters: William Nicholson, Simon Beaufoy | Cast: Jason Clarke, Jake Gyllenhaal, Josh Brolin, Keira Knightley, John Hawkes, Naoko Mori, Emily Watson, Sam Worthington, Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson, Robin Wright, Michael Kelly | Genre: Adventure, Drama | MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense peril and disturbing images