|Genre:||Action/Adventure, Biopic, Drama|
|Runtime:||2 Hours 01 mins|
|Studio:||Working Title Films|
|Release Date:||US: 25 Sep 2015
UK: 11 Sep 2015
|See If You Like:||Vertical Limit,|
Icelandic director Baltasar Kormakur (2 Guns) returns with Everest, a disaster thriller based on a tragic true story. The film boasts an impressive ensemble cast and some breathtaking cinematography, but that can’t save it from a lacklustre script and a dearth of character development.
Taking centre stage is Jason Clarke (Zero Dark Thirty) as New Zealand expedition leader Rob Hall. Along with a group of varied trekkers (some more experienced than others), played by Josh Brolin (No Country For Old Men), John Hawkes (The Sessions), Michael Kelly (House of Cards), Naoko Mori (Torchwood), and fellow leader Jake Gyllenhaal (Nightcrawler), he leads them through the brutal elements of Everest towards the summit. Of course, things go pear-shaped, and the crew find themselves in a desperate fight for survival where some of them might not make it down alive.
Although you might find some visceral thrills in the movie, they don’t come until towards the very end. Before we get there, we have to sit through endless introductions to an unnecessary amount of characters. Although all the actors are fine, none are given the chance to stand out, except for maybe Josh Brolin who, despite playing a man who doesn’t get the most screen time, is able to wring a few moments of genuine emotion. Keira Knightley (The Imitation Game) plays Rob’s pregnant wife, and as a New Zealander myself, I feel that I can say with confidence that hers is the most accurate Kiwi accent I’ve ever heard on film. Clarke is great as Hall, and his amiable persona made it hard not to like the man. It’s a shame then that everyone else, especially rival leader Scott Fischer (Gyllenhaal), isn’t given enough dialogue or background to fully flesh-out their roles and ultimately end up making the experience a less than empathetic one.
Although, the obvious star of this film isn’t one of its human cast: it’s the mountain itself. Kormakur has smartly chosen a setting which is ideal for a thriller of Everest’s ilk, with some scenes being shot on Everest itself. The cinematography by Salvatore Totino is dazzling and immersive, making the mountain and its environment formidable and ever-present, almost even personifying the dangers the climbers are facing. But even though it looks great, not enough pretty imagery in the world can save Everest from poor storytelling that doesn’t do justice to its all-encompassing surroundings.
Everest ultimately spends too much time revering its characters that it isn’t able to fully create any sort of dramatic tension between them. Kormakur can’t just expect the audience to care about the story and the people involved simply because these events actually happened, and the film isn’t as hard-hitting as it should have been because of its unwillingness to delve deeper into the minds of the climbers and explore the psychological reasoning behind what they do and why they do it.
Because Kormakur spends so much time introducing new faces, there is barely any time left in its modest two hour length for any suspense to be built. Most of the action happens in the final quarter of the film. It’s a blur; what should be a nail-biting conclusion is just a rushed series of events where Kormakur must close off the movie with everyone accounted for. This makes for an incredibly unsatisfying experience where we don’t really get to know anybody, so why should we care what happens to them?
In the end, Kormakur’s Everest is an underwhelming attempt at a larger-than-life story. The director knows how to create stunning visuals, but he can’t seem to place people worth caring about within them.
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