UK Release Date: 18th September 2015
Runtime: 121 minutes
Director: Baltasar Kormákur
Writer: William Nicholson, Simon Beaufoy
Starring: Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin, Jake Gyllenhaal, Emily Blunt, Keira Knightley, John Hawkes, Robin Wright, Michael Kelly
Synopsis: Two companies mount expeditions to the summit of Mount Everest, but a string of unfortunate events creates an ultimately tragic disaster.
Countless books have been written about the events of the 10th and 11th of May 1996, in which eight people died on Mount Everest after being caught up in a blizzard during their attempt to summit the world’s highest peak. The story, which remains contentious to this day, is now recounted on the big screen in spectacular fashion with Icelandic director Baltasar Kormákur’s Everest.
Rob Hall (Jason Clarke), head of mountain climbing company Adventure Consultants, is concerned by the number of people attempting to reach the summit of Everest, including Beck Weathers (Josh Brolin) and mailman Doug (John Hawkes). Rival adventure guide Scott Fischer (Jake Gyllenhaal) is also mounting an expedition of his own. As the teams attempt to climb, under the guidance of base camp manager Helen (Emily Watson), a blizzard strikes and a string of minor failings creates a terrible tragedy.
In its earliest moments, Everest looks set to become something of an unwieldy and stodgy film. A large amount of screen time is required simply to introduce the huge ensemble cast, who are sketched rather thinly in most cases. However, the film comes alive once the mountain comes into view – there’s a reason the movie is called Everest. When it arrives in the Himalayas, DoP Salvatore Totino really flexes his muscles to produce images of genuinely jaw-dropping beauty.
| "Human beings simply aren’t built to function at the cruising altitude of a 747."
For all of its visual prowess, Everest has constant issues with juggling its ensemble cast. The historical events covered by the film are so complex that the script leaves very little room to actually develop the characters. Most of the eight characters who ultimately perish are wafer-thin and there’s very little attempt to create emotion for them. The shining beacon of light is Emily Watson as the base camp manager, who holds the film together whenever it takes a step from the summit in its final hour.
Jason Clarke, however, gets plenty to do as the leader of the central group of adventurers. The presence of a nicely understated Keira Knightley as his wife, staying back home in New Zealand, gives the film an emotional arc worth caring about, which is all the more important given the lack of sympathy for so many of the characters. Everest would almost certainly have been better as a study of Clarke’s character rather than a muddled ensemble piece.
Despite their effect on the narrative, these criticisms don’t stop Everest from being one of the most impressive examples of pure cinematic spectacle this year. Kormákur’s direction is solid and, but for the rather difficult task of picking out individual characters based on their coats in the blizzard, he keeps a pretty good handle on the set pieces. In fact, the film is often at its best when the camera sweeps out of the maelstrom of snow to pause for a beat and study the events. The balance just isn’t quite right.
| "You, my friends, are following in the very footsteps of history."
There’s no doubt that Everest will go down as one of the most ambitious films of 2015, even though it emerges with more than its fair share of flaws and a rather wasted ensemble cast. The visuals, though, are utterly remarkable and the film does a hell of a job of depicting the inescapable, unbridled fury of Mother Nature as a vicious force.
Pop or Poop?
A heavyweight cast is squandered in favour of a near 9,000 foot tall protagonist in Baltasar Kormákur’s devastating account of true events in Everest.
Jason Clarke is the pick of the bunch in a cast filled with amazing performers struggling with meagre material, though Emily Watson merits a mention for her role as narrative glue.
The pictures are the star here.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.