Mount Everest. Straddling the border between China and Nepal, Everest is a part of the Himalayan mountain range. In May, 1996, several expeditions attempted to surmount its 29.029 foot peak; the same height as a 747 flies. Their adventure is the subject of Baltasar Kormákur’s film Everest. Written by William Nicholson and Simon Beaufoy, the screenplay is loosely based on real-life events in Jon Krakauer’s novel, Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster.
After 60 days of preparation at base camp, two expeditions, one lead by Rob Hall (Jason Clarke) and another lead by Scott Fisher (Jake Gyllenhaal), successfully ascended Mount Everest’s peak. Because of the number of climbers, several of them were bottlenecked at the Hillary Step, just below the peak and were overcome by a rogue winter storm. Although many were saved, several perished.
Krakauer, a journalist on assignment from Outside magazine at the time, is played by Michael Kelly (Now You See Me). Josh Brolin (Beck Weathers), Keira Knightly (Jan Arnold, Hall’s wife), Robin Wright (Peach Weathers), John Hawkes (Doug Hansen) and Sam Worthington (Guy Cotter) round out a strong supporting cast.
Kormákur’s strong direction and an eye for detail really benefited the movie. Filmed in several locations, including Iceland, the Italian Alps, on stages in England and Italy, South Base Camp and Kathmandu in Nepal, Salvatore Totino’s cinematography (Cinderella Man) is, in a word, breathtaking. From the Namche Bazaar in Nepal to the white-out conditions on the mountainside, Totino was able to capture exquisite detail. And it shows on screen. The film is adequately paced, thanks to Mick Audsley’s tight editing. Dario Marianelli’s wonderfully atmospheric score heightens the emotional tension.
The 3D stereo conversion and IMAX presentation are top notch, enhancing Tontino’s cinematography and the special effects, never taking away from the onscreen performances. The IMAX audio is also stunning, thanks to Glenn Freemantle’s sound design.
Resembling action-disaster movies from the 1970s, Everest is not without its problems. Although a decent drama, the story is encumbered by trying to be too many things; partly biographical, partly disaster-drama, partly adventure drama.
Despite the story challenges, Everest is recommended for the ensemble’s strong action, Kormákur’s tight direction and screen composition and Totino’s brilliant cinematography.