Standing at a jaw dropping 29,035 feet, one would wonder why anyone would want to attempt climbing it. Such is the question posed by Outside magazine reporter, Jon Krakauer over some drinks before the disastrous expedition in 1996. “Why do this? And don’t say, ‘because it’s there’ “. Beck (Josh Brolin) later explains he climbs because he has a black cloud of depression that follows him around and the only time it lifts is when he is climbing. Another climber named Doug Hansen (John Hawkes) works three jobs back home and was given a discount by the lead guide, Rob Hall (Jason Clarke) who is the owner of Adventure Consultants. Hansen says he “wants his kids to know that hard work and drive can accomplish anything even for an average nerd like him.”
Everest is a powerhouse of a film from start to finish and it works as an adventure film but also has a strong human element to it, as well. Rob Hall was a seasoned climber and knew his stuff, but he was a kind soul and was smart enough to realize that base camp had too many climbers trying to summit Everest at the same time. He talks with his competition, Scott Fischer (Jake Gyllenhaal) who was the owner of Mountain Madness to combine their teams for safety concerns. “This is not about our competing businesses. I trust you and think this is the best and safest way to climb,” Hall implores Fischer. Fischer’s response is “You’re a hand holder, Rob. I believe if you need your hand held, you probably don’t need to be here.” But Fischer is smart, too and agrees.
Problems arise almost immediately when the climb begins. ‘O’ (short for what the climbers refer to as Oxygen) is on short supply and used up rather quickly. Ropes and ladders are not secured the way the should have been and then there is the weather. Oh man, that weather. It can change on a dime and it does. Unrelentingly brutal storms come out of nowhere with eighty mile an hour winds and plummeting temperatures that bottom out at about to 20-30 below zero, trapping the combined teams. First, there is a 2PM turnaround time the teams miss. After 2PM climbers are supposed to return to one of the base camps set up along the way. Behind schedule and almost out of ‘O’, the storm slams the door shut on any way of descending in a quick fashion leaving several climbers stranded. Among them are Rob Hall and Scott Fischer. They are accomplished climbers who had seen bad conditions like this before and were no strangers to adverse conditions. Hall had actually climbed and summited Everest five times before this trip as well as Fischer who had managed to do it a couple of times, as well. But this storm was particularly terrifying.
Everest is impeccably acted and the authenticity of the climb is incredible. Shown only in IMAX 3D, the film jumps off of the screen with stunning cinematography, spectacular editing and a respectfully somber score by Dario Marianelli. I have long since been a fan of Jason Clarke and this is one of his strongest performances to date. He is very much the lead in the film and he is solid, as are all of the actors in Everest. Jake Gyllenhaal is given more screen time in the trailer, and although he garners some screen time, he is not the lead. But for what time he has on screen Gyllenhaal shows we he is on a roll as an actor. Hawkes and Brolin are standout as an average joe’s doing the impossible. Hawkes is immensely likable and Brolin’s brash demeanor and Texas swagger make his character fun to watch as well.
The remaining cast includes, Keira Knightley as Hall’s pregnant wife, Elizabeth Debicki as the expedition’s nurse, Emily Watson as the base camp coordinator, Robin Wright is Beck’s rather cold wife and Sam Worthington is a fellow climber who tries in vain to save Rob Hall. Michael Kelly plays the writer who did survive, Jon Krakauer
Everest is a grand adventure; authentic and real with terrific writing, directing and outstanding acting. This is a film is filled with heartfelt emotion, sympathy and understands the depths of its characters. It does a great job of explaining what drives people to take such risks and it made me want to look up the real people that Everest has claimed over the years. It is a proud and profoundly respectful film and one of the better films of this year.
Everest- ****1/2 out of 5
Everest- Rated PG13 for scenes of life threatening peril and adult situations
Everest- Run Time is 120 minutes