It is often said that movies are a form of escapism, allowing one to remove themselves form their own reality. On occasion, one becomes so removed from reality that they feel part of the movie that they’re supposed to be viewing. Everest is exactly that – an adventure which is meant to be experienced, not seen.
Rob Hall (Jason Clarke) is a mountain-climber who hails from New Zealand, and a very experienced one at that. He is also the owner-operator of “Adventure Consultants”, a company which runs guided tours of the world’s tallest mountain, Mount Everest. Although he romanticises about journeying the Himalayan peak, Rob knows all too well of the risks associated with mountaineering – the lack of oxygen and extreme cold mean it’s not for the faint of heart.
This year is a particularly busy one for Rob, with a record number of climbing teams attempting to reach Everest’s summit. To clear the queue for his fellow alpinists, Rob makes a deal with one of his “rival” mountain climbers, American Scott Fischer (Jake Gyllenhaal) to have their parties ascend the peak simultaneously. A fierce approaching storm means the two groups will need to complete the journey fast, which won’t be easy, for scaling Everest is itself an enormous effort.
Everest, from director Baltasar Kormákur of 101 Reykjavik fame, is both an adventure film and a disaster film. For much of the feature, the audience is left to gaze at the gorgeously-captured scenery, while the protagonists are left to survive the peril that eventually befalls them. The latter scenario does not occur until well-over the halfway mark, which does irritate, but this factor is at least made bearable by the movie’s two greatest advantages.
The first is that the audience feels as much a part of the journey as the characters do. The film follows Rob and his team from the airport in New Zealand, across the beautiful landscapes of Nepal and right to the very top of Mount Everest. Seeing the movie in 3D, as this reviewer did, no doubt helps the viewer to become immersed – if ever the opportunity to see Everest in three-dimensions arises, be sure not to pass it up, for it is well worth experiencing.
The second factor is the ensemble cast, made up of several familiar and talented actors. As well as Gyllenhaal and the always-wonderful Clarke, such actors include Josh Brolin as amateur mountaineer Beck Weathers; Emily Watson as Hall’s camp manager, Helen Wilton; Sam Worthington as Helen’s assistant, Guy Cotter; and Keira Knightley, who puts on a pretty convincing antipodean accent to play Hall’s wife Jan Arnold.
Not one actor puts a foot wrong in the feature, and that’s just as well, for Everest is based on real people and a real event: the 1996 Mount Everest disaster, to be exact. While the performers do their real-life counterparts proud, the actions of their characters are occasionally bizarre. In this regard, the story does come across as slightly insensitive – it would be better if the event was used as inspiration for the plot, rather than having it retold on-screen.
Despite this, one can’t help but be engrossed in what this film offers. With its atmosphere, fantastic cast, visual beauty and sense of terror, Everest is nothing short of an extraordinary experience, and a rare example of a movie that benefits from the use of 3D technology.
This film was previously reviewed for YO Bendigo on September 24th, 2015.