Tough climb cold as ice
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.