Everest is Beautiful, Terrifying, and Inevitably Grim
Directed by: Baltasar Kormákur
Written by: William Nicholson, Simon Beaufoy
Starring: Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin, John Hawkes, Robin Wright, Emily Watson, Keira Knightley, Sam Worthington, Jake Gyllenhaal
Running time 121 minutes
Rated PG-13 for intense peril and disturbing images
Everest is based on the events of the 1996 Mount Everest disaster in which eight people died during blizzard while attempting to summit the infamous mountain. While the multiple books from survivors of this tragedy were used as a basis, no single book was used for the screenplay, but the books Into Thin Air and Left for Dead are credited in the film. While that may seem like trivial information for a film based on true events in this case it is important because there are a few key conflicting accounts that this film does not directly address, and in some cases outright omits. Naturally for more detailed information I would recommend reading these books, and not just because they are fascinating.
In May of 1996 legendary mountaineer and founder of Adventure Consultants Rob Hall (Jason Clarke) lead an expedition of climbers with guides Mike Groom (Thomas M. Wright) Andy Harris (Martin Henderson) and clients Frank Fischbeck (Todd Boyce), Doug Hansen (John Hawkes), Stuart Hutchison (Demetri Goritsas),Lou Kasischke (Mark Derwin), Jon Krakauer (Michael Kelly),Yasuko Namba (Naoko Mori),John Taske (Tim Dantay),and Beck Weathers (Josh Brolin), up Mount Everest. Along with competing expedition company Mountain Madness, lead by Scott Fischer (Jake Gyllenhaal), Neal Beidleman (Tom Goodman-Hill), and Anatoli Boukreev (Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson). The commercialization of Everest climbing expeditions lead to overcrowding on the mountain that caused multiple unfortunate delays in summiting, which left these climbers exposed when a massive blizzard hit the mountain.
The film itself can be summed up fairly quickly as stupid people doing dumb things and dying because when it is man versus nature, nature always wins. I was surprised how the film handled the man made events that lead to this unfortunately avoidable disaster, and also how delicately director Baltasar Kormákur handled that situation; also how honestly writers William Nicholson, and Simon Beaufoy treated the victims and survivors. No one person came off as overly heroic, or without blame, one striking line from the film said it best “The last word always belongs to the mountain.”
With all the terrific talent in this film, the cinematography came away as the strongest element, filmed on location in Nepal on the foothills of Everest, the Italian Alps adding the necessary sense of majesty and intimidation that is Mount Everest. I spent equal times marveling at the scenery as I did with the action being portrayed, unfortunately this meant that at the height of peril I had failed to significantly connect with anyone and if it were not for the fact that I knew these were people that actually died, I wouldn’t have cared about their fates. At least once I callously said to myself “well that’s what happens when you try to climb a mountain that has a built in death zone”, naturally I felt bad immediately after thinking this.
The grim nature of this film is in diametric opposition to its extreme beauty, the filmmakers use the IMAX format and 3D to great effect, it is one I would recommend making a trip to see this on the over-sized screen.