Last week I was lucky enough to get to see Everest in the theater.
“On the morning of May 10, 1996, climbers (Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin) from two expeditions start their final ascent toward the summit of Mount Everest, the highest point on Earth. With little warning, a violent storm strikes the mountain, engulfing the adventurers in one of the fiercest blizzards ever encountered by man. Challenged by the harshest conditions imaginable, the teams must endure blistering winds and freezing temperatures in an epic battle to survive against nearly impossible odds.”
Everest should have been a fairly simple movie to write. There are numerous accounts of the incident in print, including several first person books from survivors. Not only do you have an easy to follow timeline but all the necessary details and a lot of sample dialogue. They hired two of the best Hollywood scriptwriters, Simon Beaufoy (Oscars for 127 Hours and Slumdog Millionaire as well as a nomination for The Full Monty) and William Nicholson (Oscar nominations for Gladiator and Shadowlands).
In spite of this, I did not find the script to be written particularly well. While it is an actual event, too much of the writing smacks of 70s disaster movies. Characters are somewhat stock and we don’t particularly care about them until disaster strikes. I mention this because the shallowness of the characters is pretty much my only complaint against the film.
Visually, Everest is an absolute marvel. I had seen the original IMAX movie taken at that time, watched interviews with a particular survivor (not spoiling it for those who somehow missed news coverage when it happened), and read Into Thin Air (the best of the books on this topic) yet it wasn’t until I saw this film in RPX that I had a real, visceral understanding of what it means to climb Everest.
Everest is directed by Baltasar Kormakur. Previously I have seen his 2 Guns and Contraband. They were okay but not impressive. Everest is absolutely riveting. The film is nicely paced and very informative without being pedantic. It was filmed in part on Everest at base camp as well as in the Italian Alps.
Yes, we are introduced to a variety of caricatures, I mean characters in the early stages. We have earnest team leader, Rob Hall (Jason Clarke) and laid back team leader, Scott Fischer (Jake Gyllenhaal). Our hopeful climbers include Texan alpha male Beck Weathers (Josh Brolin), nice guy mailman Doug Hansen (John Hawkes), journalist Jon Krakauer (Michael Kelly), and veteran female climber Yasuko Namba (Naoko Mori). The native Sherpa guides are often ignored in Everest stories but at least two are here as minor characters, Ang Dorjee (Ang Phula Sherpa) and Lopsang (Pemba Sherpa).
Performances are just fine across the board. Josh Brolin does not have to stretch to play Beck Weathers – the role seems written with the actor in mind. Jason Clarke is fabulous as Rob Hall. His performances really vary with him usually being in the background of a film and underplaying his role. While this didn’t work well with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, here he steals the show (if steal is an accurate term for an ensemble piece).
Even though I knew the complete story, including the fates of those involved, I found the RPX presentation harrowing. Everest is definitely not a movie to see on television or even a small theater screen. Go see this on the biggest screen you can. Now.