Review: Everest

I actually Googled “How many people have climbed to the peak of Mount Everest and Survived?” before I started writing this review. According to National Geographic:

Everest has always been a trophy, but now that almost 4,000 people have reached its summit, some more than once, the feat means less than it did a half century ago. Today roughly 90 percent of the climbers on Everest are guided clients, many without basic climbing skills.

Basically that tidbit of information is just as interesting as Baltasar Kormákur’s feature based on the true story of a tragic expedition resulting in the loss of life and limb while attempting to trek down from the 29,029 ft geological nightmare when a massive storm hit Everest hard in May 1996.

Image by Universal Pictures and Working Title

Everest stars Jason Clarke as Rob Hall, leader of Adventure Consultants, who trains and guides a team up Everest to follow in the footsteps of history. His team collaborates with Scott Fischer, played by Academy Award nominee Jake Gyllenhaal, and his climbing team, Mountain Madness, from base camp to the four camps en route to the Death Zone to the summit and back.

Among the climbers were carpenter/mailman Doug Hansen, Yasuko Namba, who climbed six of the seven summits prior to taking on Mt. Everest and Beck Weathers, an experienced climber from Texas. Basically, Everest is a rather pedestrian and tedious disaster movie showcasing the what an unrelenting she-devil mother nature can be as the chase for glory swirls into a tempest of terror when brutal weather conditions result in the the worst possible outcome: lives were lost and left on the mountain.

Everest attempts to follow in the footsteps of recent films such as Life of Pi and Gravity, films that use stunning visuals as a backdrop to augment a story about an individual(s) who attempt to survive nearly impossible odds, in environments that are completely dangerous, but in its attempt it goes way over the top.

Listening to the panting, screaming, the frequent and frantic radio transmissions on the way up towards the summit is grueling in of itself but when the storm hits and the climbers’ situations grow more dire by the second, I was completely immersed in the action yet unaffected because part of me knew what was going to happen before it did. There is suspense but it just seems so shallow.

Watching this film in IMAX 3D, you are completely immersed in the sights and sounds of the film but while I was enamored by the technical expertise of Everest, I found the narrative to be rather tame. I wouldn’t say that this movie towers or exudes any type of majesty compared to its namesake, but I will say that watching this movie in IMAX 3D is thrilling.

Does the cast give good performances? Sure but this isn’t a movie worth seeing for the performances. Clarke, Gyllenhaal, Josh Brolin, John Hawkes, Keira Knightley, Sam Worthington, Naoko Mori, Michael Kelly, Emily Watson, Elizabeth Debicki among others range from decent-to-good actors but I feel that this movie could have had perhaps a better impact if there wasn’t so much star power attached.

Simon Beaufoy and William Nicholson’s screenplay did enough to make for an interesting story but I just felt that more impact could have been necessary to get swept up in the story rather than the visuals. For instance, the jumps between Clarke’s Rob Hall and Knightley’s Jan, Hall’s pregnant wife back home in New Zealand, while Hall was on the mountain with the weather beating on him, exhausting his resources, in particular, his oxygen, it was over-the-top if you ask me. The entire storm-portion of the movie is already dramatic enough, there was no need to go that far to illicit sympathy from the audience.

I will credit the sublime visual effects of Everest as well as the breathtaking cinematography by Salvatore Totino, the sound team, Mick Audsley’s editing was hit-and-miss, Dario Marianelli’s music seemed a touch excessive and overall I thought this production under Baltasar Kormákur was a technically sound picture with a lot of over-the-top elements weighing it down.

I had little background going into the auditorium to watch Everest, in fact I was five when the tragedy occurred. As I witnessed these men and women risk so much, I realized that I was watching these figures chase glory into their graves. Everest showed me that the power of nature is only strengthened by the actions or inactions of the men who make decisions in nature’s path.

People died because decisions were made up-there that were not supposed to happen. That is what I took away from Everest.

This movie will feel familiar to Life of Pi and Gravity is some aspects and maybe it will draw fans of those films in, but I feel that they will come away disappointed because of the tragedy of what happens and what ultimately ends up working against Everest.

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