A TERRIFIC CINEMATIC TALE
OF BRAVERY AND SACRIFICE
Movies that are “based on a true story” are somewhat tricky to pull off. For all tense and purposes, history has already catalogue the events and the accounts of the lives (whether participated or affected by) has been well-documented. It’s for that reasons why “based on a true story” movies are hard to make, for many people might already know that narrative’s conflict and its overall resolution. Thus, it falls to filmmakers to make such a movie feel both informative and entertaining at the same time, striking the proper balance between the two to maximize a viewer’s movie experience. Universal Pictures and director Baltasar Kormákur present the cinematic story of the 1996 Mount Everest disaster with the feature film Everest. Does this movie strike truth in this “true life event” or has Hollywood buried its real life authenticity beneath theatrical dramatics?
Rob Hall (Jason Clarke) is the owner of Adventure Consultants, a New Zealand based company that’s dedicated to bringing adventurers and thrill-seekers up Mount Everest with a degree of safety, assisted and aided by his partner Helen Wilton (Emily Watson). Gearing up for a new climb, while his pregnant wife Jan (Keira Knightley) remains at home, Rob greets his new group, which includes writer Jon Krakauer (Michael Kelly), Beck Weathers (Josh Brolin), and Doug Hansen (John Hawkes). Arriving at Everest with his group, Rob is faced with an array of other climbing companies that are jostling for space, finding a familiar face in Scott Fischer (Jake Gyllenhaal), the owner of climbing group “Mountain Madness”. As the ascent commences, Rob tries to maintain a measure of peace safety for his clients, working through the harsh elements as they push upward and onward towards Everest’s summit. However, when a disastrous snow storm strikes, Rob’s group is spilt up on the slopes of Everest, requiring life and death decisions to be made and enduring inhuman weather conditions.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
I actually never heard of the account of the fatally Everest expedition disaster of 1996 until after seeing the trailers for Everest. Working at a bookstore, I remember seeing the book Into Thin Air by John Krakauer, which recounts the tale of fatal climb up Everest, but I didn’t make the connection until after seeing the movie. Anyways, the trailer for Everest was constantly been played all summer long at the movies, so (after seeing it dozens of times), I decided to purchase a ticket (an IMAX 3D ticket) to see the movie. In short, I personally think Everest is a thrilling movie that’s both excitingly thrilling and emotional sad at the same time.
After mediocre features like 2 Guns and Contraband, director Baltasar Kormákur has a really challenge in his hand when apporaching this story, trying to create something “new and “refreshing” to a tale that has already been examined mulitple times. In that regard, Kormákur does succed with Everest. As for dramatics, the film is pretty straightforward with the first half of the movie introducing viewers to the cast of characters (personalites and temperants) as they ascend up Everest as well as battling the elements and the mountainous terrains. For the most part, Everest’s focus remains in the wilderness wild with pockets moments here and there of catching up with Helen, who runs the base-camp for Adventure Consultants as well Rob’s and Becky’s wife (more on that later). Much like James Cameron’s Titanic, the second half of Everest goes into “disaster mode” with Rob’s group rip apart by the storm that envelopes everyone on the mountain. At this point, the movie becomes very intense and nerve-racking with a great concern for the on-screen characters as each one struggles to survive nature’s onslaught of snow, ice, and freezing temperatures. As I said, many might already know the outcome of the story, but Kormákur knows how to make something well-known and turn it into something intriguing and deeply care about its characters, making Everest an unflinching movie to behold, marvel, and sympathizes with.
In matters of production, Everest is a visual feast for the eyes. Cinematographer Salvatore Totino does an incredible job with plenty of wide angle shots and swooping camera angles that truly tantalize’s the optical senses. As if it’s a character unto itself, the filmmakers treat Mt. Everest with a titular force that’s forever presence. Seeing the characters scale up and down Everest’s terrain through the harshes of weather is both amazing and horrifying to watch on-screen, adding to Totino’s cinematography efforts and making the viewing experience of Everest in either 3D or IMAX 3D worthwhile. Adding to the production is music composer Dario Marianelli, who’s score is set beautifully to Everest.
Kormákur’s Everest is a character piece, offering acts of heroism, endurance, and self-discovery within it’s on-screen portrayls. Furthermore, the assemblage of actors and actresses that he has enlisted for his cinematic tale are top-notch, pulling from wide variety of well knowns. While Jason Clarke’s Rob Hall is the sort of like the defacto protagonist, leading his team up Everest and assisting where he can, Josh Brolin’s Beck Weathers and John Hawkes’s Doug Hansen give powerful scenes that effectively carry a lot of weight in Everest’s character development. In more supporting roles (but still really good ones) includes Emily Watson’s Helen Wilton, Rob’s partner in managing their base camp, Sam Worthington’s Guy Cotter, a member of Adventuer Consultants, Jake Gyllenhaal’s Scott Fischer, a laidback expedition owner of Mountain Madness, and Michael Kellyy as the writer John Krakauer. Even smaller roles like Keira Knightley’s Jan, Rob’s pregnant wife, and Robin Wright’s Peach, Beck’s wife, have sensitive and poignant moments on-screen that emotional impact Everest’s narration. As a side note, each actor (both primary and secondary ones) gives their best in their performances, making sure they’re honoring the portrayls of their real life characters without the notion of shoehorning the role.
There are some negative points to Everest. While the first half of the movie’s narration is introducing viewers to the characters, setting, and overall premise of the story, it does slightly lose its own “steady” path when the movie goes into full disaster mode (but that usually happens in these types of movies). Also, with a sprawling cast (of whom are very talented individuals), the film sometimes loses who’s who in the feature. Viewers might not know the character’s name, but might know the actor. Personally, I didn’t know Jake Gyllenhaal’s character name was Scott Fischer until after the movie. It kind of felt like learning who everyone was was like chore and Kormákur could’ve done a better job in explain them clearly to viewers. Lastly, Everest does kind of end abruptly, leaving a lot of question that a viewer might have left hanging in the air.
With current movies that are “based off of true stories” offer a more heroic stance with men and women trumping and surviving nature’s wilderness in a sort of a quasi-happy ending, Everest paints a more somber tone in its theatrical dramatics. While are some missteps here and there, the movie is a intriguing character piece that’s full of bravery, courage, sacrifice, and a touch of humility that surely will resonate in a viewer’s moviegoing experience. Personally, I liked the movie and recommended it for everyone to see (even possibly reading Krakauer’s account in his book Into Thin Air. With additionally support from its visuals, score, and overall thrilling tension and suspense, Everest is an entertaining and thought-provoking film, honoring the men and women who lived and died in this fatal climb up Mt. Everest.