Film review of the action adventure Everest, based on the real events of the 1996 Mount Everest disaster, about groups of mountaineer tourists attempting to scale the peak of the mountain. They struggle against the odds after a storm hits.
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Several groups of mountaineer tourists, one of which is led by soon-to-be-new-father Clarke, attempt to scale the peak of Everest, but struggle against the odds after a storm hits. Down at base camp, a terrified Watson coordinates the rescue efforts.
Review, by Jason Day
Director Kormákur, who hails from Iceland, is a man used to frigid filming conditions. His The Deep, which was nominated for a Best Foreign Film Oscar in 2012, dealt with another real-life tragedy, in the cold, that of a lone survivor of a capsized fishing boat off the coast of his homeland.
Other films in his canon have been set in and around Iceland so it is unsurprising he would helm this gruelling, frost-bitten endurance drama in which the journey down from Everest is just as tough as getting up to the peak.
He is also well-versed in producing masculine, action-heavy films, such as 2 Guns (2013) and Contraband (2012) so has no problems ladling on the gripping set-pieces. In fact, so many calamities befall the stricken climbers with such frightening regularity, that not only they but also the audience have little time to draw breath before the next trauma to beset them has to be overcome.
He isn’t, however, as proficient working with technology such as 3D, in which format I saw this. 3D has the potential to really highlight the terrain and topography of the world, so mountainous Nepal should have popped out at me like a hallucinogenic holiday (as doctor Debicki notes during a base camp medical pep talk). Unfortunately, despite a cracking early scene as the main group walk across a rope bridge, the film felt is resolutely flat screen. Given how beautiful the region is, 2D would have rendered it and the action just as fetchingly.
The director and writers’ approach to dealing with the emotional side of the film (there are plenty of deaths, frostbite and mental anguish for several movies) is commendably brusque…even entirely lacking. People fall off mountains and freeze to death with a matter-of-fact style. This assists the filmmakers in concentrating on the primary objective of the film, that is being all about the climb. But it renders the final closing sequence, as the names and photos of the people who died are mournfully shown on the big screen, redundant.
I don’t mean to come across as cold or callous, but why should I now care when the human interest side of this drama has been hitherto standoffish, as if I have been kept at a personal arms-length from the victims?
Clearly, I’m not being asked to care, as the motto of the film and the characters is that the climb to Everest’s summit will continue, irrespective of the dead bodies we are informed still litter it.
Performance wise, the men are all on jaw-jutting, heroic best form. There’s little real character development or background in all but two of them (Clarke and Brolin), some perfunctionary, disposable mutterings from Hawkes about his divorce and an absolutely fantastic turn from Watson as the mother figure of the base camp operations who, with just the slightest expression and intonation of voice, suggests a calm exterior hiding a breakdown fomenting inside.
Knightley’s New Zealand accent is extraordinarily good. So good, it almost seems as if she is lip-synching to a native antipodean actress speaking the words, but it really is her talking (co-star Henderson, who hails from Auckland, gave her some assistance during production). I’ve said it before, but I never warmed to Knightley in the earlier stage of her career, but I admire and like her more and more with each passing film.
See the official trailer on Youtube.
Cast & credits
Director: Baltasar Kormákur. Universal/Working Title/Cross Creek et al (12a)
Producers: Nicky Kentish-Barnes, Liza Chasin, Eric Fellner, Evan Hayes, Brian Oliver, Tyler Thompson.
Writers: William Nicholson, Simon Beaufoy.
Camera: Salvatore Totino.
Music: Dario Marianelli.
Sets: Gary Freeman.
Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin, Jake Gyllenhaal, Emily Watson, Keira Knightley, Sam Worthington, Robin Wright, John Hawkes, Martin Henderson, Elizabeth Debicki.