Everest is an existential film. It could be one of the most beautiful travelogues you’ve ever seen, but it is far more than that. Its beauty and majesty are perfectly enhanced by IMAX and 3D, but the true significance has to do with the mysteries of the soul. What drives men to do things that they have no business doing? What makes them climb a mountain whose summit is at the height that 747 jets fly? The old answer that is always used is, “Because it’s there”. Obviously, the reasons run much deeper. There is a void in many people that they can only fill by doing the impossible. They look for accomplishments and knowledge that will hopefully give life meaning. Everest is the true story based on the book by Jon Krakauer, Into Thin Air. Krakauer also wrote Into The Wild, which became the 2007 film of the same name about a lone young man who hiked endlessly through the wilderness until he died of starvation. In both cases, these journeys for elusive truths became deadly and tragic.
The film has a expansive cast worthy of such an epic tale, including Jake Gyllenhaal (Southpaw, Nightcrawler), Sam Worthington ( Avatar, Terminator Salvation, Clash of the Titans), Josh Brolin ( Men in Black 3, Sin City 2), Jason Clarke (Terminator Genisys, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes), John Hawkes ( he Sessions, Winter’s Bone), Michael Kelly, Martin Henderson, Emily Watson, Keira Knightley, Robin Wright, and Tom Goodman Hill (Mr. Selfridge, Humans). The director, Baltasar Kormakur, has changed his style considerably to suit the material. His last film with Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlburg, 2 Guns, was a Michael Bay type, over the top action extravaganza. 2 Guns was ridiculous. Everest is a pristine visual masterpiece. He shows the events that occurred on the great mountain in 1996 with a documentary-like rigor as well as totally capturing the grandeur of the location. But the ultimate question remains. Why?
The events in 1996 involved numerous commercial mountain climbing tours taking place simultaneously. The book strenuously questioned the rampant commercialization that took place, allowing dilettantes of all kinds to participate in a grueling endeavor that is insanely dangerous. In this instance, eight people died. Going to see the movie in IMAX 3D is a very good substitute for the $65,000 price tag that was paid by the people on the tour at the time. That is similar to the practice of paying $10,000,000 to go on a private trip to the International Space Station. There must be better ways to spend money. I think mainlining heroin makes more sense (which I should rush to say is a very bad and stupid thing to do, kids). These activities are full of danger and extreme discomfort. So there must be dreams of great rewards when you accomplish your goals. I personally suspect that the payoff is not as complete and final as they might hope. In fact, most of these people pursue these thrills more than once, like they are chasing an addiction that can never be satiated.
If you go see this movie, be warned. It is a grueling and mortifying experience. You will not leave the theater whistling a happy tune. You will live the vicarious thrill of cheating death. This is the most frightening death that I can imagine: frozen to the side of a mountain for all eternity or blown to oblivion from a height 29,029 feet never to be found again.