On May 10th 1996, an almighty storm hit the peak of Mount Everest, claiming numerous lives and leaving others severely wounded. Opening the Venice Film Festival last week, Everest is directed by Baltasar Kormákur (Contraband, 2 Guns) and tells the story of multiple groups of climbers who were to reach the peak on that fateful day. Essentially a large-scale disaster movie (I know, we’ve had to wait 4 long months since the last one) Everest boasts a cast of extreme acting chops including Josh Brolin, Jason Clarke, Keira Knightley and Jake Gyllenhaal.
On paper, with the cast and subject matter at hand, you’d expect to see a film with a fantastic narrative and amazing visuals; unfortunately Everest could only really deliver half of that. It seems that script writing and character development fell by the wayside in order to focus on recreating the physical toll that climbing such a beast can do to the human body. For a large portion of the film the audience is made to feel deliberately uncomfortable, POV camera angles giving you genuine vertigo and constant wheezing and coughing from the cast making you feel out of breath yourself, while this makes for interesting filmmaking, it doesn’t compel you to really root for any of these characters.
Rob Hall (Jason Clarke) is a guide that is paid handsomely to escort customers to the peak of Everest and back down as safely as possible, this time his group includes part-time postman Doug (John Hawkes) experienced climber Yasuko (Naoko Mori) and the loud-mouthed, big headed Beck (Josh Brolin). Also tagging along is Jon Krakauer (Michael Kelly) a journalist who Rob hopes will write a glowing account of his journey and give him great publicity. As it turns out, Jon was supposed to be travelling with a different group, led by Scott Fischer (Jake Gyllenhaal). It seemed as though the tug of war between Rob and Scott over Jon would transpire to be the focal point of the movie, but this idea just seemed to wither away as the movie went on. It is bad news for Gyllenhaal fans as he is criminally underused in this film; all his scenes together will probably amount to about 10 minutes of screen time, which is a massive shame because his scenes always felt the most substantial.
Amidst the loud icy storms, blindingly white snowstorms and faces covered entirely in scarves and goggles, it is extremely difficult to know which character is where and who’s talking to whom. Because of this, it is difficult to really connect to a few of the characters, the exception being Rob. Jason Clarke manages to deliver an extremely touching performance during a scene where he is trapped in a blizzard and is speaking to his pregnant wife Jan (Keira Knightley) via satellite phone while she is at home, thousands of miles away.
Everest was an enjoyable movie going experience without a doubt and was a genuine spectacle to see on an IMAX screen, but I just feel with a little more insight into the characters backstories, this film would have felt much more together and less like a big budget re-enactment of the tragedies that happened that day.
Dir: Baltasar Kormakur
Scr: William Nicholson, Simon Beaufroy
Starring: Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin, Jake Gyllenhaal, Keira Knightley, Sam Worthington
Prd: Nicky Kentish Barnes, Tim Bevan, Evan Hayes, Brian Oliver, Tyler Thompson
DOP: Salvatore Totino
Music: Dario Marianelli
Run time: 121 mins
Everest is in cinemas from 18 September.