Everest Review: Spectacular scenery, doesn’t quite peak

Director: Baltasar Kormákur

Starring: Jason Clarke, Jake Gyllenhaal, Keira Knightley, Josh Brolin, Emily Watson

Please note, this review contains minor spoilers.

The Overview

Based on the true story of the 1996 Mount Everest Disaster, Everest tells the tale of the ill-fated expedition to the summit of the Earth’s highest mountain. Guided treks up the mountain increased in popularity as more and more intrepid climbers want to take on the challenge of a lifetime. Two different expeditions decide to scale Everest at the same time, which causes logistical problems, however this is nothing compared to the devastating effects of mother nature, as a fierce snowstorm puts everyone in danger. Scaling Everest was a lifelong dream for the people on these expeditions, however they now have to battle the harsh elements in a breathtaking struggle for survival and make it home safely.

The Good

As expected from the trailers, Everest is incredibly action packed, and the special effects shots are stunning. Maybe not a good film if you’re scared of heights; the scene of the climber walking across a very precarious ladder over a precipice might make you feel a bit nauseous! However, it is incredibly well shot, and all of the action shots are superb. I saw this film in 2D, but I reckon it would look even more amazing in 3D; some of the aerial shots in particular would really lend themselves to 3D. The scaling is incredible as well, and the camera frequently pans out for wide scenery shots to show just how small the climbers are in comparison to the vastness of Everest’s peak.

Even if you know the story of what happened, there is still an incredible amount of tension created. Like most “disaster” movies, it is pretty easy to foresee what is going to happen, but this doesn’t detract from the drama, or the tension as it builds. It’s around 2 hours long, however it doesn’t feel like it; it is action packed from start to finish, and this never really lets out in it’s entirety. In fact some of it moves a little too quickly, but overall it is a very easy film to watch, and the pacing is excellent.

It has a great cast, however it is Jason Clarke (probably one of the less well-known actors) as expedition leader Rob Hall, who really shines. It is an ensemble cast, but the main focus is on Hall, and Clarke demonstrates great range and emotion throughout. Jake Gyllenhaal is also excellent as the laid-back, rival expedition leader, Scott Fischer. We don’t get to delve into his character too much, which is a shame as he has been really strong in a lot of his recent roles (particularly Nightcrawler). In fact, because the cast is so big, there is little chance for character development, and this feels like a bit of a waste, particularly when there is so much talent in one film. We’ll get onto this in the next bit!

The Bad

With so many characters, the development of the individuals really suffers, as there are just too many people to care about in such a short space of time. Understandably the film chooses to focus on Rob Hall who lead the expedition, and we get some background into Doug Hansen (John Hawkes) and Beck Weather’s (Josh Brolin) characters, but this feels rushed in places as there is so much else going on. When events do take a dramatic turn, and everyone’s lives are in danger, it is a bit difficult to keep up with who is who, and also for the audience to care about all of the characters; which is a shame as it is very emotional in places, yet the audience is not invested enough in the characters to feel the emotions that they perhaps should.

Whilst the cast is excellent, and most of the acting pretty solid, the female characters really let this film down. The “Base camp Mum”, Helen Wilton (Emily Watson), and Rob’s pregnant wife Jan (Keira Knightley), have little to do apart from look concerned, and speak into a communication device as the brave men trek up the mountain. I really liked the character of Yasuko Namba (Naoko Mori), a Japanese lady who had climbed six of the seven summits, with Everest being the seventh and final challenge. However because there were so many other characters vying for attention, she was very much in the background. This lack of noticeably strong female characters at the forefront was a real letdown for me, and I think something which could have been improved on by making Yasuko a more central character.

The two key things in this film are the characters and the action, and whilst it absolutely nails the action and effects, it is let down by the poor representation of its characters.

The Verdict

I saw this movie and you should too. It does have it’s faults and I think it suffers for having such a large cast and not enough time to explore their characters properly, but the action is excellent and this just about makes up for it. I wouldn’t say it is a film to watch over and over again, nor will I be rushing out to buy it on DVD, but it is an enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours. See it in 3D and enjoy the spectacle.  

Agree with everything I’ve said, or am I a terribly misguided idiot who has got it all wrong? Please let me know in the comments, and don’t forget to share as well.

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