The Top of the World
Visually striking – indeed at times playing like a veritable 3D/IMAX-scale guided tour of the deadly peak – Everest eschews both Cliffhanger-style adventure and most disaster movie tropes in favour of a more documentary approach to the 1996 tragedy.Featuring an all-star cast, it loosely fleshes out a swathe of different characters whilst building towards the fated double-expedition that lost so many souls, but ultimately still favours grand cinematic vistas and their commensurate jaw-dropping visuals over rich character depth and atypical story structure. This makes for great (arguably, most obviously, Big Screen) viewing, but ultimately robs the enterprise of some potential lasting impression, as we only really get to know the characters as much as is required to proceed with the narrative. Indeed the story, based both on the book written by one of the survivors, and on the true events themselves – which, controversially, are reportedly at odds with some of the book – is so keen on sticking to the documentary ‘facts’ of the undertaking that it neither offers any traditional Hollywood teetering-on-the-edge climbing action nor, conversely, raises any genuine questions about the wanton risks associated with commercialising trips up this mountain; barely touching on the mentality of those who want to scale it.There are probably rich ideas to mine here, debating the ostensible heroics of individuals who would so flagrantly dance with death; and the dangers of tour-guiding rich clients up the treacherous route – people who are arguably not equipped to be up there in the first place. Instead of addressing them, however, Everest instead loosely skirts around them, focussing briefly on the risks of having so many different commercial operators trying an ascent during the same period; blaming a lot on the unsung hero Sherpas (16 of whom died in an avalanche during the same period that this was filming there), and throwing a little patchwork character motivation behind some of the various climbers whose real thoughts (at the time) we’ll likely never know. Jason Clarke fares well in the lead – replacing Christian Bale at the 11th hour – whilst strong support comes from Josh Brolin, John Hawkes and Jake Gyllenhaal (although Sam Worthington's surprisingly restrained cameo feels pointless), however it’s Everest itself that is the true star of the show, and the reason so many will come to see this.
2D/3D Video QualityThe Everest UK Steelbook release boasts both the 2D and 3D versions of the film, with a 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation for the former, which looks spectacular, and a 1080p/MVC-encoded High Definition rendition of the latter, which looks arguably even more impressive, both framed in the movie’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1 widescreen.
Although, in some respects, the setting itself does most of the hard leg-work, this is still a spectacular video presentation, both in its 2D and 3D guise.
With a fantastic foundation on the 2D front – which promotes near-perfect pin-sharp observation of the visuals, tremendous detail, and stunning colours framed within the jaw-dropping sheer white snowy background illuminated with the punishing relentlessness of the beating sun – the 3D only builds further depth into the experience. The image pops with tangible depth between objects, giving them a natural roundedness, and setting them within the seemingly endlessly panoramic environment. Curiously, there aren’t all that many vertigo-inducing shots down, but the summit itself is handled with staggering precision, and certainly makes you feel at the very literal top of the world. Although the 2D is perfection, the demo quality 3D, if an option, is arguably the way to go.
Sound QualityCas Harlow reviewed the audio using a standard 5.1-channel setup - The accompanying soundtrack is every bit as impressive, bringing this insanely grand environment to vibrant life, initially in sheer majesty but, before long, with punishingly brutal blizzard winds tearing through your living room and veritably transporting you to the top of this deadly summit. Dialogue remains clear and coherent above everything else, and the score accentuates the magnificent environment and heightens the tension appropriately, but the effects are the heart and soul of the piece, expanding out across the array (even in non-Atmos form) and engulfing you in the freezing environment and chaotic ascent/descent.
The soundtrack brings this grand environment to vibrant life, with punishingly brutal blizzard winds tearing through your living room.Steve Withers reviewed the audio using a 7.2.4-channel Dolby Atmos setup - Having seen Everest at the cinema, we knew we were in for a treat and the Dolby Atmos encoded Blu-ray certainly didn't disappoint. The sound designers take full advantage of the object based capabilities of Atmos to create a completely believable soundstage that really adds to the veracity of the film. Like the narrative itself, the sound design slowly builds creating an utterly believable sense of location that works perfectly with the equally as impressive visuals. As the climbers ascend the mountain, so the soundtrack builds, adding more and more audio cues from the wind constantly moving around the entire soundstage to the footsteps crunching snow to the ice creaking and cracking.
However once the storm arrives, the sound design goes into overdrive, utilising all the speakers and totally immersing you in the environment and the climbers' ordeal. Not only do all the channels get a thorough workout but so will your subwoofer, with plenty of bass extension to rattle your room. However in amongst all this chaos the dialogue remains clear, allowing you to remain engaged with the characters even as the film puts you as close to the summit of Everest as you'll probably ever want to be. This soundtrack is a triumph in terms of audio design, putting Everest in at 'number one with a bullet' on our favourite Dolby Atmos demo discs chart.
Steelbook ExtrasA selection of strong extras provides some decent background into the piece, from a Commentary by the Director, taking us through almost every aspect of the production, from the shoot to the casting to the story to the effects; to a series of short featurettes which first provide a broad overview Making-Of before delving into the climbing training, the sets constructed, and the true story behind the script.
A suitably impressive steelbook provides the icing on the cake.
The UK steelbook provides a nice package to encase the film, and whilst - on the face of it - fans may have preferred a gloss finish and some decent embossing/debossing, the sheer finish of the steelbook is surprisingly effective and reflective of the tone and style of the piece, with a suitably chosen image for both the front and rear (and far better than the Cliffhanger-esque bridge shot that graced most posters and misleadingly drew comparison with Stallone's more adventurous outing).
Blu-ray VerdictA suitably stunning setting provides the foundation for much of the entertainment here.
Unsurprisingly, we get pristine, near-perfect, demo video presentation, and similarly outstanding Atmos-enhanced audio to accompany this movie, as well as a strong selection of extras, all housed within a suitably impressive steelbook package. Fans should consider it a great release.
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