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    Everest (2015): Movie Review

    "Tragic yet unsentimental portrayal of the May 1996 Everest expedition.” 

    On May 10, 1996, an expedition to the world’s highest summit goes wrong, killing eight climbers in the aftermath and leaving lasting painful memories to the survivors. With vivid visuals and deft attention to details, Baltasar Kormakur brings the incident to life in his latest grandiose docudrama named after the mighty Himalayan peak itself, Everest.

    After bidding farewell to his wife, Jan (Keira Knightley), friendly New Zealander Rob Hall (Jason Clarke) leaves for Nepal to lead Adventure Consultants, an expedition bound for the apex of Mt. Everest. Part of his team are Beck Weather (Josh Brolin), a cocky Texan who has a huge bravado but like Rob, is willing to spend for expensive satellite phone calls to his wife, Peach (Robin Wright); Doug Hansen (John Hawkes), a humble Seattle-based mailman whose attempt in 1995 was a few hundred feet short off the summit; Yasuko (Naoko Mori), a determined aged Japanese woman who has already scaled six of the Seven Summits; and Jon Krakauer (Michael Kelly), a high-profile journalist writing for Outside magazine whose presence causes friction between Rob and Scott Fischer (Jake Gyllenhaal). Like Rob, Scott is also a tour guide, running competing expedition Mountain Madness with his tough Russian buddy Anatoli Boukreev (Ingvar Sigordsson).

    After a forty-day preparatory period, the teams finally ascend to higher elevations. At the base camp, manager Helen Wilton (Emily Watson) keeps close contact with them via walkie-talkies. Despite their earlier tension, Rob and Scott decide to join forces. Eventually, most of the crews reach the top of Everest on May 10. However, the weather worsens and soon traps the climbers in darkness. Putting all their experiences and natural instincts to the test, they must hold onto each other and survive the raging blizzards.

    A cross between docudrama and disaster film, Everest is a visual charmer. Its images are stunning, skilfully detailed, and realistically created. It beautifully captures the height of the mountains, giving a sense of acrophobia, as well as the tenderness of constantly falling snow and the bustling life in the city of Katmandu.

    Aside from giving much attention to visuals, the film also provides clear understanding of how to scale the great peak. During the forty days of preparation, it chronicles some basic disciplines particularly regarding oxygen supply, pressure and temperature, or in general, the essential ways to acclimatize to the altitude. Rapport develops between the men, as well as anxieties, fears and anticipation.

    While the first hour of the movie is devoted to grounding and opening of various motivations, the second documents the expeditions’ final ascent and its outcome. Similarly, details of the climb are rich and clear-cut, and the scenes become more gripping and intense. Physical challenges of mountaineering are precisely depicted such as crossing shaky bridges over a seemingly endless crevice, navigating through poor visibility, dealing with freezing conditions and dwindling oxygen supply, enduring countless avalanches, and passing through narrow paths. The Hillary Step, the final 40-foot wall bottleneck, proves to be a major challenge. Such specifics are commendable; they pick interest and raise suspense at some points, but they are mostly businesslike and unengaging.

    Multiple characters are slightly sketched, yet characterization may be sufficient enough to solicit empathy from the audience. In essence, the movie is about the majestic Everest and it is just right to put more emphasis on its strength, power and menace, pushing any human figures on the sidelines. It’s like paying respect to nature, and like the daredevil Bourkreev said in the film, “The mountain always has the last word.” Furthermore, it would have been more interesting if the 11 real-life Sherpas starring in the movie have more interesting roles other than being unnoticeable accessories.

    For a feature that delineates man’s ineptitude against nature, the movie is quite unsentimental. Yes, it is sad and tragic but it lacks enough melodrama to be moving or uplifting. This is probably the effect of thin characterization and blunt detailing of mountaineering. 

    The cast is undoubtedly impressive and powerful. Clarke totally nails it as the likable all-around Rob Hall. Brolin and Hawkes are inspiring individuals with their ambitions. While Yasuko is a sweet presence, Watson is heart-warming as the teams’ logistics coordinator. Sam Worthington and Elizabeth Debicki also stand out as support staffs for the expedition. As wives filled with anxiety for their husbands, Knightley and Wright deliver strongly. 

    Everest excels with its first-rate cast and spellbinding visuals. Characterization might be sketchy but the film in general succeeds in reminding us of our rightful place in this highly-changing and unpredictable planet. 

    Production: Working Title, in association with Walden Media and presented with Cross Creek Pictures 
    Cast: Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin, John Hawkes, Robin Wright, Emily Watson, Michel Kelly, Keira Knightley, Sam Worthington, Martin Henderson, Elizabeth Debicki, Ingvar Sigurdsson, Jake Gyllenhaal, Naoko Mori, Tom Goodman-Hill 
    Director: Baltasar Kormakur 
    Screenwriters: William Nicholson, Simon Beaufoy 
    Producers: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Baltasar Kormakur, Nicky Kentish Barnes, Brian Oliver, Tyler Thompson 
    Executive producers: Angela Morrison, Liza Chasin, Evan Hayes, Peter Mallouk, Mark Mallouk, Lauren Selig, Randall Emmett, Brandt Andersen 
    Director of photography: Salvatore Totino 
    Production designer: Gary Freeman 
    Costume designer: Guy Speranza 
    Editor: Mick Audsley 
    Music: Dario Marianelli 
    Visual effects supervisor: Dadi Einarsson


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