Saturday, 26 September 2015


A climbing expedition on Mt. Everest is devastated by a severe snow storm. 

Mount Everest is fascinating, even though I have no particular desire to ever climb it. I guess it must be exhilarating to stand on the highest point on Earth. I've read that the odds of dying while climbing Everest differ based on how it's calculated, but seems to break down at about one for every 61 attempts. People pay thousands of dollars to take that risk. It's so dangerous that, if you die, they just leave your body there. It's like riding Space Mountain and seeing trails of dead bodies from people who did not finish Space Mountain. This is something viewers will have to wrap their mind around while watching people fight for their lives. This isn't a plane crash; no one forced these people to climb the tallest mountain in the world. Their fight for survival was completely their own doing. For the 99% of us who will never climb Mount Everest, this new 3D Imax drama provides plenty of vividly illustrated reasons to keep it off our bucket list. In fact, watching this film is all the experience with Everest I will ever need. However there are quite a few good reasons to see this solid dramatisation of the 1996 disastrous trek of the world's tallest mountain.

First of all, the cast is rock-solid. Not knowing who survives and who doesn't beforehand, I did find myself rooting for characters, because they are real people. Including multiple characters sufficiently humanised to create real concern for their fates. With a gallery of individuals - some of whom are destined not to make it - you could say Everest is a disaster movie in the old Hollywood sense of the term, but it doesn't quite feel like one. And that's a good thing. The fact that some engaging, friendly Aussies are front and center as the main tour organisers and guides may account the competent, reassuring type you'd feel good entrusting yourself to on such an expedition. It's sometimes impossible to identify who's who under all the coats, hoods, goggles and masks. Moreover, Jason Clarke is an actor generally cast as the bad guy or hothead, but not here. His character, Rob Hall is the smart, capable, responsible professional. He has to enforce discipline and make his team of paying customers realise the dangers of doing something unnatural as scaling Everest. Plus, Josh Brolin's character becomes kind of a gag, masking real vulnerabilities.     

You expect the movie to be centrally about Clarke & Gyllenhaal and their friendship or enmity, as they begin the film by having a tense conversation about approaching Krakauer and whether their rivals team should co-operate. But this idea disappears into the snow as well. Jake Gyllenhaal has a role which is surprisingly peripheral and small. The poster appeared to give him third-wheeling. It's hardly that. His star power means that fans and even non-fans alike will be waiting for him to save the day or fail to save the day in some interesting way - or do something, anything at all. Director did a very good job at keeping the action coherent and involving. Everest seems bigger and more complex than anything he's done before. In narrative terms it's a little messy - as true stories tend to be. The dramatic focus is split around half a dozen characters based on real people and it's not clear who we should root for, or why this exactly particular expedition went as wrong as it did compared to all others. Everest doesn't go in for cheap shots or sensation for sensation's sake. Remaining close to the women and men who get to the top of the world. beginning with the eye-popping, you-are-there visual techniques that make you feel glad that you're not actually up there with them.     

Attention to realistic detail gives the film texture. Plus, In a way that is engagingly welcoming rather than just informational, the film provides an account of the 40-day-prep period. Where camaraderies develop, fear are exposed, anxieties and anticipation appear. The very fact that climbing Everest had become bu the second act of the film, if not simple, at least somewhat commonplace, is part of what led to the disaster that has been effectively condensed at the end. The second hour is devoted to the final ascent and its aftermaths, which is all quite intense. I also wonder if anyone will watch this movie and think to themselves "You know what..? This looks great! I now want to climb this mountain and give it a shot!" I would guess no but climbers are wired differently than I am. 

Overall Everest is beautifully shot (one of the few times I'd recommend watching a movie in 3D) but despite its height this film doesn't quite delivers the edge-of-your-seat thrills that many were hoping for and all those moderately engaging characters means that there is no centrally powerful character.

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