Tough climb cold as ice

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - WEEK IN MOVIES - Leigh Paatsch


Di­rec­tor: Bal­tasar Kor­makur (Con­tra­band) Star­ring: Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin, John Hawkes, Michael Kelly, Naoko Mori, Jake Gyl­len­haal, Emily Wat­son. Ver­dict: Climb and pun­ish­ment

BEST keep both feet firmly on the ground when it comes to Ever­est.

Though nobly com­mit­ted to telling a well-chron­i­cled true story – and very much a tragic one at that – this is, first and fore­most, an old­fash­ioned dis­as­ter movie.

Just like The Per­fect Storm and most other real-life en­tries in the genre, the in­ci­den­tals must be skimmed over.

All that re­ally mat­ters is achiev­ing a con­vinc­ing and com­pelling de­pic­tion of a ter­ri­ble in­ci­dent we all know is com­ing. In this case, the deaths of five climbers on Ever­est’s south face dur­ing a com­mer­cial group as­cent in May, 1996.

Early on, Ever­est erects just enough nar­ra­tive scaf­fold­ing to carry a ba­sic over­view of who will be in­volved in the im­pend­ing drama up the moun­tain and how they came to be there.

Most have stumped up the stag­ger­ing sum of $65,000 to be helped through­out the climb by the NZ com­pany Ad­ven­ture Con­sul­tants, and its con­sci­en­tious team leader Rob Hall (played by Aus­tralian ac­tor Jason Clarke).

Among the key par­tic­i­pants is au­thor Jon Krakauer (Michael Kelly), whose best-selling book about the or­deal served as one of the prin­ci­pal script­ing sources here.

The most no­table of those along­side the keen-eyed scribe in­clude Beck Weath­ers (Josh Brolin), a brash, straight-talk­ing Texan; Ya­suko Namba (Naoko Mori), a Ja­panese woman who has scaled the high­est peaks on all other con­ti­nents save for Ever­est; and Doug Hansen (John Hawkes), a cash-strapped mail­man who has failed to de­liver him­self to the sum­mit on two ear­lier oc­ca­sions.

While the char­ac­ter work of Ever­est gets thin­ner as the scenes rise in al­ti­tude, the movie stays good at clearly mark­ing out the cru­cial vari­ables that will dic­tate who will and won’t sur­vive the or­deal ahead.

Though there is much me­an­der­ing mid-film dis­cus­sion of the im­por­tance of weather fore­casts, oxy­gen sup­plies, comms de­vices and fluc­tu­a­tions in phys­i­cal and men­tal well-be­ing, it is well worth pay­ing close at­ten­tion.

For once un­fore­seen calamity hits the Ad­ven­ture Con­sul­tants group on their fi­nal as­cent, all that info proves mighty use­ful in help­ing you work out what the hell is go­ing on.

Whether or not Ever­est truly im­pacts as the film­mak­ers might have hoped will be a mat­ter of per­sonal taste.

Al­most in spite of thrilling vi­su­als and a chill­ingly real sit­u­a­tion so dili­gently cov­ered for the most part, there re­mains a nig­gling feel­ing the movie is not mak­ing the emo­tional con­nec­tion with the au­di­ence that it should.

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