"Human beings simply aren't designed to function at the cruising altitude of a 747".It’s tricky to know how far to describe the plot of a film like ‘Everest’. It is of course based very much on a true story and that always poses problems as to how much you assume whether or not the person you’re recommending it to knows about the event. If I were to describe ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ is it a spoiler that Jordan Belfort goes to prison, or in ‘Rush’ is it a spoiler that Niki Lauda crashes his car and is horribly injured (regardless of the answer to those questions it doesn’t matter now because I’ve spoiled them if you haven’t seen them). The point of all this is that I can’t really think of an intro to this review but at least now I’ve filled the necessary paragraph so we can move on.
Looking back and chronicling a number of simultaneous attempts to reach the summit of Mount Everest in 1996 as rival companies and dangerous weather conditions resulted in the worst disaster ever to occur upon the slopes of the world’s tallest mountain.
A film like ‘Everest’ may also struggle to find numerous ways in which it can separate itself from the standard disaster movie, the other major entry for that genre this year was ‘San Andreas’ but of course they are completely different in terms of their tone and what they’re trying to accomplish as movies. This one is attempting to avoid clichés and rely much more on character driven drama, though of course one has to accept that with history certain elements of the story are naturally clichéd in a certain sense. Nonetheless the writers have done an excellent job in making the plot feel more like a natural progression of people struggling to survive and establishing their characters in such a way that these efforts make sense compared to their actions for the rest of the film. Though sometimes there are elements of added drama that seem to exist for screen time rather than logical character steps.
But the true scale of ‘Everest’s’ accomplishment lies in the way that it is shot and its cinematography. It is a gigantic visual spectacle in capturing the scope and enormity of exactly what these mountaineers are trying to accomplish. After a while the striking visuals go above and beyond making the mountain look terrifying, it appears to be some kind of malevolent overlord that towers above our protagonists and is throwing everything it has at them. ‘Everest’ even manages to use these elements every once in a while to point out the foolhardiness of what these people are trying to achieve by climbing up it, allowing the striking imagery to pose more questions in the viewers mind than any dialogue could.
As we saw with 2007’s ‘Zodiac’ Jake Gyllenhaal fits very well into an ensemble cast and does so again here. Contrary to what many believe he is only one player in this much larger story. If I was to single out one main protagonist I’d say Jason Clarke as Rob Hall a New Zealander expedition group leader who is expected to return home to his wife and unborn child. But then again the sheer size and weight of this cast ironically undermines this central role sometimes, making it harder to focus on his trials and tribulations when there’s so much more going on as well. That being said though there are many players they all bring their best efforts into the game. Sam Worthington (who’s been absent from our screens for a while) is pleasing in what could have been a very irrelevant role, Kiera Knightly and Robin Wright add a touch of normality to the otherwise alien world of the mountain, then there’s John Hawke, Emily Watson and Josh Brolin who also do superb work here.
The true strengths of ‘Everest’ lie in the size of the spectacle and the ensemble cast but its ability to tell this story on an intimate level is drawn into question.