Having just this week returned from climbing all 19,341 feet of Kilimanjaro, I find myself intimately capable of reviewing “Everest”, the new thriller from Icelandic director Baltamar Kormákur.
Based on a true story from 1996, Jason Clarke and Jake Gyllenhaal play Rob Hall and Scott Fischer respectively, rival organisers of commercial climbing ventures whose businesses involve training well-paying clients at Everest Base Camp and then taking them to the summit to experience the ‘ultimate high’. When the climbing season of 1996 becomes hugely crowded, including a rather obnoxious team from South Africa, the two rivals decide it is in the interests of their clients to combine forces and attack the mountain together.
We are introduced to some of the clients including Texan Beck Weathers (Josh Brolin), second-attempt postman Doug Hanson (John Hawkes) and Japanese mountaineer Yasuko Namba (Naoko Mori) chasing her seventh and final major mountain summit. Supporting the teams is hen-mother from base camp Helen Wilton (Emily Watson), medical helper Caroline Mackenzie (Elizabeth Debicki from “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”) and hard-man Anatoni Boukreev (Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson) who eschews the use of such luxuries as oxygen. To add dramatic tension to the situation, Rob Hall’s wife (Keira Knightley) is heavily pregnant with their first daughter.
In an extremely hostile environment, as a storm passes through, the film neatly characterises how a single impetuous decision can have devastating consequences.
The action scenes in the film are well-executed with a number of vertiguous shots and heart-in-the-mouth moments, neatly escalated by Dario Marianelli’s effective score. At its heart this is (without remembering the details of the original news story) a “will they, won’t they” survival story of the ilk of “The Towering Inferno” and other classic disaster movies.
However, despite the long running-time and relatively leisurely built-up, I found there to be a curious lack of connection between the viewer and most of the key players. Perhaps this stems from the fact that you know they were all fully aware of the potential dangers? Or perhaps that the mountain seems a bigger character that any of the humans involved? Whatever the reason, it’s only the future parental responsibilities of Hall that really resonate and make you root for him as opposed to any of the other characters.
Some of the hardest special effects to pull off are those that depict the natural world (as opposed to Krypton, Asgard etc), and in this regard the team led by Jonathan Bullock (from the Harry Potter series) does a great job. Whilst the “top of Everest” was in reality a set in the Pinewood 007 stage, you’ll well believe a man can freeze there.
As such, this is a decent and entertaining telling of a true-life tragedy that will definitely work better on the big screen than the small.
Fad Rating: FFFf.