The year 1996, until recently, saw the most fatalities among climbers attempting to summit Mount Everest. The majority of those deaths were the result of one disaster—multiple groups of climbers became stranded near the top of the mountain during a severe storm. The new movie “Everest”, directed by Baltasar Kormakur, documents that event.
Jason Clarke plays Rob Hall, one of the world’s most successful mountaineers who had successfully summited Mount Everest four times prior to the events of this film. He also co-founded Adventure Consultants, a company that guides clients whose climbing skills range from amateur to expert all the way to the top. Among Hall’s crew on this particular expedition is Guy Cotter (Sam Worthington), Andy “Harold” Harris (Martin Henderson), and manager Helen (Emily Watson). His clients range from boisterous Texan Beck Weathers (Josh Brolin) and mailman Doug Hansen (John Hawkes), who was making his second attempt at reaching the summit, to journalist Jon Krakauer (Michael Kelly), who was contracted by Outside magazine to write an article on Adventure Consultants, adding to the pressure to make this expedition a success. There are also multiple groups from rival companies attempting to reach the summit at the same time, increasing traffic and the length of time it takes the climbers to get from one point to another—and dwindling their supplies and their stamina as a result. One of these rival companies is Mountain Madness, led by the laid-back Scott Fischer (Jake Gyllenhaal). On top of all that, Rob has a pregnant wife, Jan (Keira Knightley), waiting for him to come home.
It’s immediately clear just from reading that what is one of the main problems “Everest” has. There are a lot of characters to juggle, and the film doesn’t do a particularly good job of doing so. Often the concentration shifts to certain characters for so long, that by the time the focuses reverts back to someone else, the audience has already almost forgotten about them. There are all these little tangents and backstories to the characters that are introduced, but never explored fully, something that would be hard to do without increasing the film’s runtime by at least a good half hour. There’s clearly some rivalry/friendship between Scott and Rob, but the audience isn’t given much explanation as to the nature of their relationship, or any backstory on Scott at all, really. Beck Weathers has a wife (Robin Wright) and two teenage kids back at home, which comes as a bit of a surprise as they aren’t introduced until later in the movie, after Beck has already been established as a courageous and carefree adventurer. All of a sudden he turns from that into a man who relies solely on thoughts of his family to get him through the rest of the journey, and it just doesn’t feel right.
In fact, for a movie that should be a powerful human drama, it’s hard to feel much emotion toward any of the characters because we never really feel like we know them. While all the actors do a decent job, the standouts by far are the women of the cast. Watson and Knightley bring some much-needed emotion to a film in which the other actors react to tragic events with, well, not much reaction. Knightley plays her role particularly well, staying strong as she urges her husband to start climbing down the mountain, then finally letting the tears flow when she realizes that rescuing him is impossible. If this movie does anything right, it’s those last two phone conversations between Jan and Rob.
“Everest” does deserve some respect, however, for remaining so true to the actual events. It doesn’t try to turn any of the incidents into unrealistic action movie scenes, and doesn’t sugar-coat anything either. This was a sad event, so the movie appropriately ends on a sad note. But that is also a contributing factor to this movie’s other problems. It’s not something I think the filmmakers can really help much; this is just an event that’s not really appropriate to adapt for a fictionalized feature film. There was just too much happening at one time, too many people’s paths to follow, and there’s no sense of closure at the end. The movie just ends, although it ends appropriately with a tribute to those who died, featuring their pictures.
“Everest” does boast stunning visuals that are actually worth seeing in 3D, but the rest of the film is sorely lacking. The scenes that are meant to be intense aren’t. There’s little sense of triumph when they finally reach the top of the mountain, or sense of loss when tragedy strikes. It walks a hard, fine line between staying respectful to those who died and creating an entertaining film; while the former it does very well, the latter sadly falls flat of expectations.
Runtime: 121 minutes. Rated PG-13 for intense peril and disturbing images.
Check out showtimes for this movie and more at the following St. Louis-area theaters:
- Wehrenberg Theatres
- AMC Theatres
- Regal Movie Theatres
- Galleria 6
- Chase Park Plaza
- Moolah Theatre
- Hi-Pointe Theatre
- St. Andrews Cinema
- Plaza Frontenac Cinema
- Tivoli Theatre