Everest – Movie Review

Everest will leave you feeling like you’ve actually survived the climb!

Thanks to Universal Pictures Australia we had the chance to see Everest in 3D IMAX before its national release. This is our review of the movie, but as usual, no matter what we say, we still recommend you to go and see it at your local cinema because there is no better critic than yourself!

Everest 5Based on the 1996 climbing tragedy in which eight people lost their lives on the world’s highest mountain, Everest, the 3D IMAX drama from Icelandic director Baltasar Kormákur, is a terrifying and exhilarating adventure, despite the eventual tragic end to the story. The all-star cast is led by Jason Clarke as Rob Hall, the New Zealand-born expedition leader of Adventure Consultants; and Jake Gyllenhaal as Scott Fischer, the American lead guide from rival company Mountain Madness.  The story focuses on the grueling tragedy from the point of view of these two climbing parties.

Everest 4The story begins in New Zealand with Rob leaving his pregnant wife (Keira Knightley) for what he hopes will be his most successful season. Accompanying him are his reliable crew members; base camp manager Helen (Emily Watson with a masterful kiwi accent), experienced guide Andy Harris (New Zealand actor Martin Henderson) and fellow guide Guy Cotter (Sam Worthington). Among their clientele for the season we meet Jon Krakauer (Michael Kelly), an in-demand travel journalist, Doug Hansen (John Hawkes) who is returning for another attempt at the peak after getting turned back the year before, and Beck Weathers (Josh Brolin), a Texan full of bravado who lets the audience know he has paid $65000 for the experience (a hefty sum and this almost 20 years ago).  We spend the first half of the film preparing with the adventurers, learning about the health risks of the weather and altitude, and being swept away with the beauty and terrifying heights of the climb.

Everest 1The film really looks spectacular; the crevasses and crossings in the first part of the film make fantastic use of the IMAX technology. Kormákur who previously directed 2 Guns, Jar City, Reykjavik- Rotterdam and its US remake Contraband, has really elevated himself to a new level with this epic adventure. On a huge IMAX screen the film captures the beauty, but even more so the torture and intensity of the conditions; enough so to justify to most of us for leaving this challenge off our wish list.  The helicopter scene near the end of the film is a stand out moment; the scene feels like an exciting amusement ride though it certainly would not be the case if you were actually in the aircraft.

Everest 6As exciting and thrilling as the experience is visually, the structure and chronology lets down the overall film experience. The story is chaotic at times, with a multitude of side characters from the various hiking groups; even the characters we’ve been introduced to become hard to decipher once the hats, goggles and snow storm set in. To add to the confusion, the timings and positioning of the various camps are never really explained beyond the sequential numbering. After the movie we still don’t know where Sam Worthington’s character Guy, obliviously an experienced climber, was positioned and what his role was prior to the storm setting in.

Everest 3The characters are also not fleshed out much, but we do learn enough about the main few to care about wanting to see most of them make it back down; and we certainly feel despair for their loved ones at home. The most heart breaking part of the story has to be where we see Hall break his own turn-around rule. Christian Bale was originally cast in this role but dropped out for Exodus, it is hard to imagine Bale as the patient and all-round-great-guy Hall, who Clarke makes us feels such empathy for.

This incarnation of the story is loosely based on the various books to come out of the disaster. From the two climbing parties the film focuses on, four survivors have written books including Jon Krakeaur, Beck Weathers and Anatoli Biukreev – a guide from the Mountain Madness party (played by Icelandic actor and frequent Kormákur collaborator Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson). In addition to the deaths we see in the film, another three climbers from a different climbing group also lost their lives the same day as a result of the storm. Sadly 1996 marked the worst year for deaths on Everest with 12 in total for the year, however when filming of the feature film started in Nepal in 2014 an avalanche occurred which took 16 lives. In 2015 another 18 deaths occurred following the Nepal earthquake. Most of these recent deaths have been Nepalese Sherpas, whom surprisingly we see very little of in the feature film.

Despite the flaws Everest will keep you holding your breath for most of the film and make you feel like you’ve actually survived the climb.  Everest will be released nationally on 17 September and it is a must see on a big screen.