Everest – Movie Review

Starring: Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin, John Hawkes, Keira Knightley, Jake Gyllenhall, Sam Worthington, Emily Watson, Robin Wright.

Directed by  Baltasar Kormakur

Everest tells the true tale of a disastrous expedition to the summit of the highest point on Earth. Set in 1996 following a proliferation of commercial mountaineering companies chartering pay-to-climb Everest summits, two expedition groups are ravaged by a severe  storm close to the summit and are left stranded to battle the extreme elements.

A common question asked of Everest mountaineers is why would you ever want to climb Everest? Our group in the film answer simply “because it’s there!” In reality the conquering of Everest is both a physical and metaphorical source of empowerment, evidence of the triumph of man over any obstacle it can face. However, as evidenced by frozen bodies that still dot the face of the mountain today, not all obstacles can be overcome.

Everest benefits from a long and impressive cast including Jason Clarke as leader of the expedition group Rob Hall, along with pregnant wife played by Kiera Knightly. Josh Brolin and John Hawkes are two climbers seeking glory, personal validation and an escape from their respective home troubles. Jake Gyllenhaal is a surprising but welcome appearance in a supporting role as the free-spirited leader of a rival adventure company. Other faces include Robin Wright, Emily Watson and Sam Worthington.

Provided you can forgive Kiera Knightly’s atrocious New Zealand accent, the extensive cast gives a collectively great performance, especially so from Australian actors Clarke and Worthington. Clarke, who’s career is currently blossoming can play a brilliant villain, but ultimately he as at home portraying a likable and caring leader, similar to his role in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Worthington, who has previously received criticism for bland and mediocre leading-man performances in big budget films, feels like he has finally found his acting niche as a strong supporting character. He gives a great and subtle performance along with Emily Watson as they futilely attempt to salvage the situation from Everest base camp.

Of course the real star of the movie is Everest itself and the film looks fantastic being shot on location in the beautiful mountainous  region of Nepal. From the bustling city of Kathmandu, to the mountainside airport of Lukla, all the way up to Everest base camp – the real background provides an authentic canvas for the strong performances of the cast.  It also serves as a reminder that the story being told is a true one. Several times I found myself assuming that a certain character would pull through because its Hollywood – but then I remembered that in real life outcomes are far less certain and often far more cruel.

Everest can be broken down into two sections. The preparation for the climb, which surprisingly was highly entertaining – and when the inevitable disaster hits.  Director  Baltasar Kormakur does not make the mistake of devoting the entire film to the disaster – things only start to go wrong in last the third or so. The effect of this is that when the storm hits, it feels so much more punishing comparative to the relative calm that existed for most of the movie. The finale is shot is such a way that the audience is also left feeling exhausted and punished. Despite a comfortable temperature in the cinema, I left feeling freezing cold.

Everest  is undoubtedly one of the better disaster movies I’ve seen. Surprisingly entertaining from start to finish and highly effective in portraying the danger and power of the legendary mountain.

Pick up the blu-ray here.

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