The idea of conquering Mount Everest is a daunting task, and no small feat for any man or woman. The mountain whose peak stands above the world has drawn people to it for decades upon decades. Those who are foolhardy enough to test their mettle against the immovable mountain quickly find out that Everest will do everything it can to make you quit. It is against this backdrop that we are placed on the side of the world's most famous mountain, to become a part of the true events that make up Everest.
In a harkening back to the days of star studded disaster films, Everest boasts an impressive cast. Jason Clarke stars as Rob Hall, one of many men who has attempted to start a business out of taking clients up the mountain. The recent proliferation of these guide services has caused a logjam in camps and on treacherous trails with all manner of weekend warriors wanting to touch the top of the summit. Rob and his team are struggling to keep the business afloat, all the while his wife, Jan (Keira Knightley) is back home pregnant with their first child. A big opportunity presents itself when renowned outdoor journalist Jon Krakauer (Michael Kelly) hires Rob and crew to show him the ropes and get him to the summit, hopefully translating into big publicity for the struggling business. An old friend of Rob's, a mailman named Doug (played by John Hawkes) also joins the group for one final attempt at the impossible. A cheerful Japanese lady named Yasuko (Naoko Mori) is going for her 7th summit and the cast of climbers is rounded out by hearty outdoorsman Beck Weathers (Josh Brolin).
We meet competing teams that are moving up the mountain at the same time, helping to cause the chaos on the climb. One such guide is Scott Fischer, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, who is a bit of a wild card but seems to be an earnest friend to Rob and a man who just loves the challenge of climbing.
There is a slow build as Rob's team slowly acclimates to the altitude and the different camps. There's great moments of bonding through these times, as everyone on Everest has a reason why they're there. For some, its the simple idiom of "because it's there". For others it's an escape from life, or a way to inspire others. But as they all dream of the top of the mountain, Rob is quick to remind them, they pay him not just to get them to the top, but to get them back down safely.
The day of the final push towards the top showcases the beauty of where they're at, as well as the daunting task they're about to attempt. These men all with a common goal push themselves and each other past the point of suffering just to get another foot in front of the other. As the teams begin the long approach to the summit, a huge storm rolls in quickly, separating members, stranding some, and taxing the resolve of each climber. Through it all, Mount Everest itself is the most domineering character, almost villainous. The battle for survival in these harsh elements take both physical and psychological tolls on everyone.
The drama within the final act of Everest is strong. None of it feels manufactured. Knowing these are actual events helps to ramp up the intensity of the human drama. Jason Clarke shines in these moments as you feel the conflict within him, the loyalty he has to these men is palpable. Each actor shines in the finale as tragedy mounts. Emily Watson and Sam Worthington add to the tension from the radio command center at base camp, desperately doing what they can.
It's in these actors' performances that Everest really shines. Hawkes and Brolin use the time they are given to put out gut wrenching performances. Gyllenhaal pops in and out of the picture and adds a nice bit of levity at the right moments.
In the category of disaster films, the look of the film can go a long way to lending to the believability of the goings on. This film was shot for 3D and that part served it's purpose well. The camerawork was stunning in a few parts. My biggest problem with this film though is the look of the sets. When the scenery is very much the star of the movie, it needs to be 100% spot on. However, there were several scenes that looked like a soundstage. I don't want to see a set when I should be looking at Mt Everest. Unfortunately, the 3D made an obvious setpiece even more noticeable and that detracted from a few scenes.
Those complaints aside, the film had me gripping my armrests and begging for each man to get off that mountain. I call that a success.
Jamison Rabbitt can't stop himself from discussing movies. To find more from him, go to Facebook.com/reelreviewstv or @reelreviewstv