One never knows what they are capable of until they are put into situations where they have to be successful in order to continue on. And no such situations are more prevalent than when dealing with Mother Nature. Of the most powerful forces, and the most unpredictable, are those resonating in nature and our environment. So many stories can be recounted from the tsunamis in Thailand, tornadoes in the Midwest, and the Mount Vesuvius eruption of ancient Rome. Another more recent example is that of the 1996 expedition up Mount Everest. Director Baltasar Kormakur details this expedition with his latest feature film, Everest.
Rob Hall (Jason Clarke) is the lead tour guide of Adventure Consultants. He takes groups of people up to the top of Everest and has never lost anyone in his years of traversing the mountain. He works closely with fellow tour guide Guy (Sam Worthington) and logistics coordinator Helen (Emily Watson). In his group are big-talking Texan Beck (Josh Brolin); Doug (John Hawkes), who failed to summit the previous year; and Yasuko (Naoko Mori), a Japanese woman who has summited the largest mountains in every country except Everest. There are two other competing groups trying to make it up the mountain: one led by free-spirited American Scott Fischer (Jake Gyllenhaal) and another led by hard-nosed Russian Anatoli Boukreev (Ingvar Sigordsson). As the groups ascend the mountain, there is a good weather pattern for them to summit on May 10th. So it is a race for the groups to summit first and create enough space for others, not clogging the one road up. Will the groups be able to work together or will rivalry and animosity cause deaths on one of the toughest mountains known to man?
If anyone were to Google, or just remember, what happened on the 1996 Everest expedition, you’d find the results. Everest is a survival thriller, but that is just part of the film. The film Is also an in-depth look at humanity, what makes humans tick, what pushes us to attempt endeavors that seem insurmountable and life threatening. And the film is also a look at the men and women who were involved in this tragic event, the character they displayed and the goodness that can also be found amongst us humans. One man climbs the mountain because it’s there, because it is a challenge and seen as something that humans cannot accomplish. Another does it to prove to the children that he teaches that you can accomplish anything should you put your heart to it. We see men and women risking their lives to go and help people who they hardly know. Watching people 28,000 feet above sea level, with limited oxygen and completely fatigued, attempt to scale higher to assist a member who can no longer continue on. We see the resolve of men and women, understanding they have reached their limit that their physical and physiological bodies can take, make that choice to be left on the mountain and for other to continue on, saving themselves. There is so much good, and so much sadness, so much bravery, and so much to admire in these people who made this ascent, we can all, as humans, take note of these men and women and learn something about what it means to be a human and a person.
The acting across the film is as solid as an ensemble cast can be. What tends to hurt the story, and my only real gripe (if there is one), is that there are so many characters. Kormakur attempts to give ample time to each character in order to flesh them out, allowing the audience to fully grasp on to these characters and truly experience everything they go through, and while he is able to achieve his goal, this does lead to more time dedicated to exposition and the story slowing down. For me, this really wasn’t too big of a problem as I prefer well-rounded characters, but for some audiences, this may be a detractor with them wanting more action and adventure and less talking. Without this character development, we wouldn’t develop the attachments to the characters that we do. We wouldn’t care about Jan Hall’s (Kiera Knightley) satellite phone call plea to her husband to keep working to get down the mountain. We wouldn’t care about Doug’s plea to Rob Hall to help him make that final ascent, despite Rob telling him it’s over and too late. We wouldn’t care about Rob’s passion to make sure everyone who goes up the mountain comes back down safe and sound. It’s the fine performances of these actors that make us care, and the direction of Kormakur that puts it all together.
Everest is a well-rounded, well thought out, and intense motion picture. All of the elements needed to be a success are in place, and the fact that the story is based on an actual event only helps it hit home with people even more. The cinematography is gorgeous and vastly demonstrates the beauty and sheer challenge that is Mount Everest. You’ll laugh, you’ll sit completely still with intensity, you’ll have your heart race with adrenaline, and you’ll cry. Everest will take you on a gambit of emotions over the course of the film and you’ll walk out of the theater feeling rewarded with the experience and, hopefully, have a new perspective on life, what it means to be human, and a desire to try and be a little better as a human in this big world we live in.