What’s It About? Everest is the true story of the attempts by two expedition groups to make it to the top of the world’s highest mountain and back down again to tell the tale in May 1996.
Verdict: The movie features a very starry cast including Jake Gyllenhaal, Jason Clarke from Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes, Sicario’s Josh Brolin, The Sessions star John Hawkes, Avatar’s Sam Worthington, Keira Knightley, House of Cards stars Robin Wright and Martin Kelly, The Ring’s Martin Henderson, Punch-Drunk Love’s Emily Watson, Torchwood’s Naoko Mori, and The Man From UNCLE’s Elizabeth Debicki.
So, there’s a heck of a lot of characters for us to get to know, which means that we only really go skin-deep on any of them, except Jason Clarke’s character Rob Hall, who we spend more time with as he’s the level-headed leader of one of the expedition groups we follow in the film. After Clarke, it’s really Josh Brolin as Texan pathologist, Beck Weathers, and John Hawkes, as Doug Hansen, a mailman attempting the summit for the second time, who get the most time. While Jake Gyllenhaal gets less time than you might think as Scott Fischer, the easy-going leader of a rival expedition company.
Regardless of the amount of time anyone spends on screen, all the actors turn in fine performances, working well together as a team. Just look out though because, between beards, oxygen masks, glasses, hoods, hats and other gear, it can be hard to tell the many characters apart as their make their way up the mountain. So, word of advice: make a mental note what colour down suits they’re wearing at the start of the climb and you’ll be fine! Also, during the parts set really high up on the mountain, the odd bit of dialogue gets lost in the noise of the wind and snow as they whip about the climbers.
You certainly can’t fault Icelandic director Baltasar Kormakur and his crew on the look of the movie. Although outside his home country Kormakur’s best known for Mark Wahlberg action movies like 2 Guns and Contraband, Everest isn’t his first tale of man versus nature. In fact, his film The Deep, from just a couple of years ago, is another true story, this time about a fisherman capsized in the ocean off Iceland.
With Everest, Kormakur and his cinematographer Salvatore Totino have done sterling work and given us some truly stunning visuals. A good job’s also been done stitching together location work in Nepal and northern Italy, as well as studio sets and green screen special effects to really give you the feeling of being on Everest.
The script was written by Unbroken’s William Nicholson and Simon Beaufoy, which is interesting because there is just a touch of 127 Hours here, which Beaufoy also wrote. Although the writers based their script on a variety of accounts of the incident including radio and phone conversations recorded at the time, there are still too many lines of dialogue from the start of the film onwards that feel like they’re there just to signpost someone’s fate or signal some cruel future irony.
But even though I knew the story already, I still found watching it unfold on screen a stomach-churning, seat-gripping experience. And the higher the climbers got up the mountain, the more I could feel myself squirming in my seat.
Extras: Race to the Summit: The Making of Everest; Aspiring to Authenticity: The Real Story; A Mountain of Work: Recreating Everest; Learning To Climb: The Actor’s Journey; Feature Commentary with Director Baltasar Kormakur.
Final Words: Everest makes for spectacular but uncomfortable, even harrowing viewing, mainly because you know the events you’re watching did really happen. While the way the characters have been drawn in the script lacks depth, the ensemble cast bring their A-game.
Everest is available on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD from 18 January 2016.