Everest tells the true story of a climbing disaster that took the lives of eight people who got caught in a fierce storm while ascending the summit of Everest, couple that with a multitude of bad decisions and bad luck and the climbers soon find themselves in a fight for survival. A fair amount of blame is leveled at the increasingly popularity and commercialism of Everest as well, which in part compounds the problems that the guides face on the mountain. Everest has essentially been turned into a tourist attraction, and there are guides that take groups of people up every year, however with each passing year more guides show up and more clients come to Everest hoping to climb it, but there's usually only a very slim window of opportunity to reach the peak and with traffic soaring, the window gets smaller every year.
We mainly follow the austere but fair Rob Hall (Jason Clarke) as he teams up with a fellow guide Scott Fischer (Jake Gyllenhaal) who's not much of a coddler when it comes to the tourists, but he recognizes the logic in teaming up with Rob in an effort to streamline the traffic going up Everest a bit more. Because when you're at such a high altitude, every second spent waiting, doing nothing but breathing, hurts, or so they tell us in the movie. I can't fault the movie for adding in the subplot about Rob's wife being pregnant, because that's how it was in real life, but I can fault the director for how cliched and forced he made it feel. Keira Knightley gave an exceptional performance as Jan Arnold though, as did Jason Clarke actually, both performances were very solid, unfortunately the individual performances never really amounted to much in the end.
Naturally the cinematography was good Salvatore Totino (cinematographer) really knew when to bring the camera in for close ups and for emotion, and when to step back and let Everest take the spotlight. I still thought it could have been a bit better given the spectacle that we're dealing with here, this is Mount Everest, it's not your average mountain or landscape. The cinematography should have been mind blowing. I wanted more of the 'wow' factor, but the awe, the scope and the majesty of Everest was parse at best, although it did have its moments every now and again.
Everest is a very slow starter though, it takes a good deal of patience and attention as they're constantly hopping around from point a to point b. It's hard to get a good grasp of where everybody is in relation to each other most of the time, admittedly efforts were made to give us some sense of distance, but I didn't feel like it was enough given the remarkably large amounts of terrain they were covering. I didn't really know what to expect going in to Everest, hell, I didn't even know it was based on a true story, I thought it was, but I wasn't sure. The marketing led me to believe that I would be in for more of a serious version of 'Vertical Limit', only with less, but more effective climbing stunts, but my expectations were way off. The only real climbing stunt in Everest is the one you saw in the trailer, as he's walking across that bridge of ladders, that's it. Everest definitely takes the more dramatic and intimate approach, but given the circumstances surrounding the movie, it's probably for the best that it wasn't turned into some sort of adrenaline fueled climbing movie.
I think for all these disaster/survival movies, the 'care' factor is the most important aspect and that was really lacking in Everest. Whenever someone died, I really felt very little sympathy or emotion for them. I don't know if it's partly because of these tourists who deliberately put themselves in harms way for what are largely arbitrary reasons or what. Remember in the movie 'Alive' when they were finally rescued and the pure exultation that I (you?) felt when they were rescued, it was a remarkably powerful moment. It's because I (you?) cared about those characters so much, but that kind of... emotional investment is almost entirely absent in Everest. I will say though that the ending was sad and poignant, and I like it when they show their real photos at the end of these biographical movies too. Towards the end of Everest one of the climbers kept saying on their descent down "slow and steady" and I thought those three words perfectly summed up Everest for me, slow and steady. No real highs and no real lows, it wasn't great, but it wasn't bad either, it was just a surprisingly unmemorable movie for the most part. Ironically, Everest felt surprisingly flat.
Written by - The Sentry - 26/09/2015