How much would you be willing to pay to conquer nature's greatest challenge?
With their lives in his hands, Rob Hall is faced with the task of leading his group to the top of the world but he must also ensure they get back down alive.Everest recounts the true events that took place back in 1996 when two groups of amateur climbers attempted to reach the summit of Mount Everest. What had previously been an exclusive adventure reserved for professional climbers only, reaching the summit was now readily available to anyone who could spare several thousand dollars; but it’s only when you’re up the mountain that you discover the real cost. Jason Clarke plays Rob Hall, leader of an expedition guiding company called Adventure Consultants, who has secured himself a reputation as one of the safest and most reliable guides available. After bidding farewell to his pregnant wife, Jan (Keira Knightley), at the airport Rob and his team set off for Kathmandu to meet their latest clients and prepare them for the ascent to the top of Mt. Everest.Amongst the group's clients are Beck Weathers (Josh Brolin), Journalist Jon Krakauer (Michael Kelly), Yasuko Namba (Naoko Mori) and Doug Hansen (John Hawkes). After trekking their way across rickety rope bridges and through various pit stops at increasing altitudes, the team find themselves at base camp where they are welcomed by Helen Wilton (Emily Watson), Adventure Consultants expedition organiser and mother hen figure. It’s at the base camp where we are introduced to rival company frontman Scott Fischer (Jake Gyllenhaal) who heads up Mountain Madness. Tensions are made clear when Rob tries to clear his conscience for poaching journalist Jon, who was originally assigned to Scott’s party, however, the two soon realise that they will have to put their differences aside and work together to ensure that everyone reaches the top and makes it back down safely.
Icelandic director Baltasar Kormákur was presented with the challenge of bringing the events that led up to the tragedy on Mt. Everest to the big screen in an honest and responsible way. Kormákur did a huge amount of research for this project including reading the books written by the survivors and meeting with David Breashears to gain insight into what it was like on Mt. Everest, as Breashears was lower down the mountain filming the IMAX documentary of the same title when he and his team helped rescue the survivors when the 1996 tragedy took place.
Everest was originally written by Lem Dobbs who had based it on several of the books published including Left for Dead by Beck Weathers. However, Dobbs version didn’t quite make it and the screenplay was later re-written by William Nicholson (Gladiator) and Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire). Despite the main characters being Rob Hall and Beck Weathers, it was important that the writers provide the other leading characters enough of a back story so that they become more rounded and give the audience a reason to root for them. This was done periodically throughout the film, during scenes of team bonding, where information is learnt about the characters giving the audience a reason to emotionally invest in them.
The star studded cast of Everest manages to each play their part with a sincerity and believability that removes any previous typecasting you might expect from them. Clarke is brilliant in his role as Rob, he’s the sensible and organised leader when he’s with his team but we see his soft and caring side when he speaks with his wife. Gyllenhaal isn’t in the film as much as the posters might profess, however the times when he is, he once again has managed to morph into the character he’s playing, the laid back ‘I know better’ rival team leader Scott Fischer.
Knightley’s role in the film is small but it’s very powerful; she is the pregnant wife who was supposed to accompany her husband on the trip but due to being pregnant was unable and is left to await the return of her husband at home in New Zealand. The emotion that Knightley packs into her performance is remarkable and one can only imagine what it must have felt like to be in her character's position. Watson’s character is similar to that of Knightley’s, finding herself helpless and can only offer support through radio contact, a horribly difficult position to be in, but Watson’s heartfelt and emotionally charged performance is strong considering the limitations her character must have felt.
Everest does amazingly well at placing you in the midst of the chaos and terrifying situations that the characters experience.
Everest was shot in the Italian Alps, Nepal and at Mt. Everest’s base camp and showcases these locations with breathtaking arial shots of the treacherous and unpredictable terrain which contrast beautifully with the bright colours of the tents and costumes. This is a film that was made to be seen in 3D, not because of preposterous objects flying towards the audience, but to emphasise the heights and depths the characters experience during their pilgrimage to the top. Cinematographer Salvatore Totino has really utilised the perilous environment to capture the sheer beauty of it whilst showing how it can turn against you in the blink of an eye. There are moments when the camera pans over the harsh environment that look as though it has been filmed on another world, which add to the sense of isolation that must be felt in a place so distant from the creature comforts of home. The music in the film isn’t over used or obvious but actually manages to accentuate the natural landscape and untamed weather as well as adding just the right accompaniment to the more distressing scenes.
Due to the weather conditions around the summit there is only a two week window each year in which the conditions are best suited for climbing, in addition to this, the growing commercialisation of expeditions meant that there were a higher number of climbers attempting to reach the summit on the 10th of May. Several delays occurred on that fateful day due to lines not being fixed which meant lengthly delays for the climbers, some of which eventually turned back and didn’t reach the top. There are some small plot details that don’t get explained fully or answered during the film, but one must remember that this is a film based on true events with research and information gathered from the individual accounts of survivors and persons involved. It doesn’t detract from the film as a whole that these small details have been left unanswered, it’s a small price to pay to have a film remain true to it’s sources rather than fabricate some fictional motive purely for the audience's peace of mind.
Kormákurhas manages to translate the tragic real life events that took place on Mt. Everest into an unbelievably tragic, big screen adaptation, free of all the trappings of a classic Hollywood ending. It’s an inspiring and moving story showcasing the lengths people are willing to go to and the dedication needed to reach their goals, despite the devastating risk involved. With adrenaline filled highs and devastating lows, it is a film that will stay with you.
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