Why did I go see Everest on the big screen? Because it was there.
Ok. Dumb joke. But I was at a screening of Baltasar Kormákur’s Everest this weekend with the expectation of being educated and entertained at the same time.
The education would come from the events themselves. Everest is based on various books including Jon Krakauer’s Into the Air that documented the tragic events of a 1996 expedition to the summit of Mt. Everest that left 12 climbers dead.
The entertainment would come from the cast that included Jason Clarke, John Hawkes, Jake Gyllenhaal, Sam Worthington, Keira Knightly, Robin Wright and Josh Brolin.
Under the direction of Kormákur (2 Guns), Everest aptly tells the full story of the fateful climb where experienced and inexperienced climbers/adventurers get caught in a horrific storm just south of the mountain’s peak.
Clarke and Gyllenhaal play Rob Hall and Scott Fischer. Rob and Scott are two of the leaders who have contracted their services to two small groups expecting to make it to the top during a break in good weather in May of 1996.
The initial climb goes according to plan. Leading the troupe over the rough, slippery and snowy terrain, Rob and Scott combine efforts for efficiency and follow protocol to ensure the safety of their groups.
Reaching the summit on May 10th was an accomplishment to be marveled. The team’s individuals take time to soak in their surroundings at the height above the cruising altitude of a 747. To say its breathtaking is an understatement as the air is so thin the team needs oxygen tanks to keep functioning.
The journey up the mountain was fairly smooth in its execution. But upon the descent, a severe storm overtakes the groups fragmenting the teams and leaving many to their fate. The storm is a combination of winds and snow which also triggers avalanches and everything else bad you can consider.
Rob Hall comes across as the hero of the film. He stays behind to assist everyday blue collar worker Doug (John Hawkes) who lags behind the others and is struggling with his breathing in the ascent. Rob puts his own safety at risk for the benefit of an individual and further jeopardizes his survival when he fails to leave the ailing the climbers upon descent.
Keira Knightly and Robin Wright both play wives that sit by the phones in the uncomfort of their homes to get updates on the rescue efforts that are thwarted by both bad weather and by the altitude that will not allow for rescue helicopters to reach base camps.
The whole spectacle plays out in glorious IMAX 3D which adds to the experience. The mountain’s crevices and the presentation of the remoteness of the setting is captured in glorious frame by Ron Howard’s regular cinematographer Salvatore Totino.
The film doesn’t quite pull at the heart strings enough and the amassing cast didn’t allow for us to get as close to any of those poor souls that lost their lives as to prompt for a reaching of ta pocket Kleenexz. However, there is a competence to the directing and a commitment from the actors that look as if they are freezing while trying to vocalize their lines.
Everest fulfilled my hopes of providing both and education and entertainment on the subject. It was sad to read in the closing cards that bodies from the expedition in 1996 are still somewhere atop Everest today. It is a testament to the devastation of mother nature on our best intentions and although Everest might not do to the water what Jaws did to my desire to go in it, I can now completely scratch out ‘Climb Everest’ on by bucket list thanks to this eye opener.