Review: Everest Is Watching People Walk Slowly To Their Deaths
Director: Baltasar Kormákur
Screenwriter: William Nicholson (screenplay) and Simon Beaufoy (screenplay)
Principal Cast: Jason Clarke, Thomas M. Wright, Marton Henderson, Keira Knightley, Sam Worthington, Josh Brolin, and Jake Gyllenhaal
Summary: A climbing expedition on Mt. Everest is devastated by a severe snow storm.
The disaster in May of 1996 on Mount Everest was a media sensation and, before 2013, it was the deadliest climbing year ever. The events that took place over May 10th to May 11th are well documented, with conflicting information, in several books that have had various adaptations. The public fascination with Everest has only grown over the years as more and more people flock to the mountain to make the dangerous and deadly journey. There are photos all over the internet of the various bodies frozen to the side of the mountain of the people that didn’t make it, yet people continue to make the climb. Everest is another re-telling of 1996 expedition that went so wrong, this time filmed and only released, in IMAX 3D.
Everest is a beautifully shot movie that takes advantage of being in IMAX and in 3D to make you feel like you are on the mountain watching the spectacle unfold.
There is a moment at the beginning of the movie where a doctor is describing to the climbers what happens in “the death zone”. He says that their bodies are essentially dying and that a portion of the climb is basically trying to get to the top and back to camp before your body dies. That is sort of what it feels like watching Everest; you’re watching a group of people die in slow motion. I almost want to say you’re watching a group of people kill themselves in slow motion. There are some things I can’t wrap my head around and climbing Everest is not one of them. Then there are the series of bad decisions that various people make that I also didn’t understand. For example, one of the men, Doug (John Hawkes) is climbing close to the top but can barely walk. They need to get off of the mountain before a storm hits, but one of the guides, Rob (Jason Clarke) stays to help Doug walk to the top. If he can barely make it to the top why would he be able to make it down again? There are people left and right in terrible states refusing to give up and I just don’t understand it.
The reality is that people really are that stubborn and they make decisions that cost lives. I would say most people know that people die going into Everest, but even without that knowledge it is very obvious how wrong everything is going to go. The IMAX and 3D are lovely and make it all the more immersive to watch. There are so many sweeping shots and the cinematography really makes this movie. It really captures everything about the climb whether it’s the wind or the cold that is almost too much at times. The 3D is also subtle enough that it isn’t headache inducing. There were a few times I needed to blink my eyes a few times because the entire movie was going out of focus but I also react very poorly to 3D. It IS obvious that director Baltasar Kormákur shot this movie with the intent of releasing it in IMAX and in 3D.
The cast does a pretty good job and the big death is painful enough that there were tears. I don’t think the statue of spoilers applies to real life but I won’t say exactly who dies. Clarke is our lead and his optimism is so obviously futile that there are times I had a hard time believing he was a real person. Jake Gyllenhaal has a much smaller role than the marketing suggests but it doesn’t take long for him to become at least endearing. This version does not paint Beck (Josh Brolin) in a very good light. What happened to him is one of the main conflicts between the various accounts of the climb. Keira Knightley also doesn’t have much of a role, but when she is called upon to act she puts a lot of heart into the role. As I said director Kormákur has really outdone himself when it comes to the visual aspects of the mountain and making the audience feel like they are there. The entire cast really captures how each step on this journey drains their very life.
Everest is a visually beautiful movie that might not have the most story to tell but reality is often not as dramatic as real life. You want them to make it home safely but sometimes the story doesn’t have a happy ending. This is a movie about watching a group of people walk slowly to their deaths and that is the thing that will stay with you.