I had the privilege of watching Everest at the Gulbenkian cinema in Canterbury the other day. First things first, the screening I watched happened to be in 3D, so take into account that no matter how much I wish it doesn’t, this will certainly affect the review. Personally, I’m not that big on 3D so I wasn’t able to fully immerse myself in the film as I would have liked.
Everest is based on the 1996 Mount Everest disaster surrounding the period where several commercial expeditions were carried out to reach the summit. Rob Hall (Jason Clarke) is the leader of one of the expeditions and our protagonist. Although Clarke is the main character of the film, this film is chock full of star power and talent that includes Josh Brolin, Jake Gyllenhaal, John Hawkes, Keira Knightley and Emily Watson. That being said, rather than overpowering each other, everybody worked together cohesively. Rather than singling out any single performance, the film is an ensemble performance and should be judged as such. Even Sam Worthington was justifiably solid in this film, though his role was quite minor.
Having read Jeffery Archer’s Paths of Glory, which chronicles the life of famed mountain climber George Mallory (Mallory even gets a name drop in the film), I felt that the first half of the film was slightly tedious and dragged at times. The film explains the dangers of Everest and the techniques and skills needed to climb it. It’s basic mountaineering knowledge but for most people it would definitely be a fascinating watch.
Essentially, the first half of the film is just Rob Hall training his group to climb Everest. They don’t actually start climbing the damn thing until about halfway through. But as every climber knows, it’s no use making it to the summit (most of the group succeed in fairly quick screen time) if you don’t make it back down. And this is where the film truly shines.
As a massive storm hits while the group is making their way down, the aim of the group changes from making it back down the mountain into one of survival. Needless to say, plenty of people die and it is absolutely tragic, especially since the film is based on a true story. The deaths are executed well, highlighting the harshness of Mt. Everest and the sheer power of Mother Nature. The cinematography isn’t brilliant but it blends nicely with the tone and theme of the film. For a film with a fairly modest budget, the special effects in the film are particularly impressive; especially the constant snowstorm the team is engulfed in for half the film.
The ending of the film though, leaves a lot to be desired. Rather than climaxing in a tense nerve-wrecking finale of man vs nature, it ends rather abruptly. It feels forced and detached from the rest of the story. Everest could have ended with Josh Brolin’s character staring at the camera licking an ice cream cone with a fish head protruding out of it and it would have felt more appropriate than the ending we were given.
Overall, Everest is a good film that shines in some places and not so much in others. It doesn’t try to play up the drama or the stakes like so many other films based on true stories tend to do. It sticks to the facts and the main story and refuses to deter from that chosen path. The ending is crappy but for what it’s worth, the rest of the film is very solid.
Written by Darren Chew