Director: Baltasar Kormákur
Starring: Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin, John Hawkes, Emily Watson, Sam Worthington, Keira Knightley, Robin Wright, and Jake Gyllenhaal
3.25 out of 5.00
MONTE YAZZIE ~ THE FOOTHILLS FOCUS~ 9/22/2015
There are many things in nature that display the inadequacy of humans. Still, the daunting Mt. Everest seems to be on a completely different level altogether. Just thinking about the massive size of a mountain that sits five and half miles above sea level is amazing. So why would anyone want to climb this mountain that consistently takes the lives of people that try to conquer it? In director Baltasar Kormákur’s action/adventure film “Everest” the answer is simply “because it’s there”. With impressive technical flair and a cast of fantastic actors, “Everest” is in a great position to meet the expectations of finally making a superior film about the immense mountain. Unfortunately, a disconnection in the narrative with the characters makes the film lack some of the emotional substance associated with the real events that the story is based on.
Rob Hall (Jason Clarke) is a guide for an adventure company that takes paying climbers to the summit of Everest. In the spring of 1996, Hall brought a group of experienced climbers to Everest. Along for the journey was a mailman named Doug Hansen (John Hawkes) who unsuccessfully attempted the ascent once before, a well-to-do first timer from Texas named Beck Weathers (Josh Brolin), a woman named Yasuko Namba (Naoko Mori) who had climbed six of the seven highest summits in the world, and another veteran climber named Scott Fischer (Jake Gyllenhaal), guiding his own group. Challenged by inclement weather conditions and overpopulation along the paths on the mountain, the doomed expedition took the lives of eight people.
“Everest” is visually striking. It’s breathtaking at times how good much of the computer generated effects look. The camera hovers, glides, and swoops all around the climbers throughout many of the treacherous scaling montages in the film. The composition of many different scenes does a great job of displaying the vast scale of Everest by showing miniscule dots of people moving gradually up the side of the mountain. It’s a perspective that works to establish the risks of the challenge, making the scenes feel far more dangerous than they otherwise might look. It’s all technically well achieved, but special effects are just one of the elements that help make this film come to life. Unfortunately, there is something missing.
The narrative builds this expedition up Everest the same way a sports movie would show how the team comes together to win the championship. While all the climbers may not get along, the journey requires them to work together as a team, to support one another in order to stay alive. Initially, the group dynamics work to display a camaraderie that reaches beyond the obvious gender and racial divides that many films like this fall into portraying; instead “Everest” composes these ambitious people as a unique breed of thrill seekers who understand each other completely without actually having to explain the complicated reasons. The line, “because it’s there”, means something wholly unique to them, something only they can understand. Unfortunately, this quality is only barely examined, and once the trudge up the mountain begins, it completely disappears amidst the wind and snow, making the tragic events have far less of an emotional component as it should have. This is unfortunate because the exceptionally talented cast could have easily made a better narrative, displaying the complicated mindset of these kinds of athletes and the relationship they have to the challenge that could kill them, resonate with more emotion.
“Everest” is a beautiful film to watch, one that portrays the intimidating and daunting nature of one of the world’s most amazing natural wonders. Unfortunately, the complicated character elements that motivate humans to conquer this feat are missing, making “Everest” a success in style but a disappointment in substance.