Since the first few teams conquered the life-or-death climb to the peak of Everest, modern climbers have established tours to train up adventurous spirits so they too can experience the thrill. But when several teams are jockeying for the safest time to climb, the time between fierce storms striking the mountain narrows too far, and the teams risk getting caught in the maelstrom.
First of all it has to be said that this film, directed by Baltasar Kormakur (director of such action thrillers as 2 Guns and Contraband) has a powerful cast at its behest: Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin, Jake Gyllenhaal, Kiera Knightley and Emily Watson, even the secondary characters deliver excellent work throughout.
And for Everest’s advantage, the first half of the film is dedicated to establishing as many of these people’s character as possible, their lives and their reasons for going on the adventure. Jason Clarke is centre stage as Rob; the expedition leader for his company “Adventure Consultants”, Jake Gyllenhaal is a competitive team leader, and Josh Brolin is a man determined to climb the mountain. There are many characters in need of backstory, some with more to lose than others.
Yes, while this is a true story of course (and criticising it feels undesirable) there are the typical foreshadowing points as: He has a baby on the way and he’s excited to come home or; he’s tried many times to climb the mountain and has everything to prove. But while cynics will see this as a disadvantage, I felt the film was honest enough to be still thrilling. Perhaps even more backstory for other characters would have blurred the foreshadowing even further.
Visually Everest is stunning. I watched it on a regular 3D cinema screen but I can imagine an IMAX 3D showing would have been extraordinary. There are several shots early on that deliberately show off the dizzying heights involved with the characters’ journey; watching people walk over extraordinarily high bridges, or traversing rickety makeshift walkways over icy chasms. These moments alone are worthy of admission. The sense of cold and horrendous freezing temperatures become unbearable towards the end, some moments feeling morbidly graphic and brutally real.
There isn’t much else to say about Everest. It is a straight-forward experience: men climb icy mountain and struggle to find their way down again. But I often say less is more, and the film enjoys setting up its characters, at least the ones that are deemed important enough (Sam Worthington’s character Guy arrives too little too late) the rest of them do tend to blur into one another when the storm hits and identifying them becomes a struggle.
It is a visual spectacle with a decent human story behind it. I enjoyed it on the big screen (and in 3D!), though I’m unsure if I need to watch it again.
Additional Marshmallows: I was entertained to discover that Josh Brolin’s character Beck’s wife Peach was played by Robin Wright. I recognised her, but I didn’t realise I recognised her from the 1987 classic The Princess Bride!