I never got into mountain-climbing and I have never really got why people would be so into it. That has definitely not changed after Everest, the true story of the 1996 commercial expedition to climb the world’s highest mountain.
It’s a well-knowing incident, but as this is Spoiler-free Reviews, I’m going to assume nothing. That said, the fact that a movie was made about it means everything obviously wasn’t smooth sailing.
The biggest draw card of Everest is the star-studded ensemble cast, one of the most impressive of the year. There’s Aussie Jason Clarke, who doesn’t put much effort into his Kiwi accent as New Zealand guide Rob Hall, and Kiera Knightley, who plays his pregnant wife. There’s Josh Brolin, who plays American climber Beck Weathers, with an almost unrecognisable (especially if you have been watching House of Cards) Robin Wright as his wife.
I would say those two are the primary focus, with supporting roles filled out by Jake Gyllenhaal, John Hawkes, Sam Worthington, Michael Kelly, Emily Watson, Martin Henderson and Elizabeth Debicki. It’s an impressive list, but it doesn’t feel like a film merely trying to attract audiences with big names.
The start of the film plays out like you would expect, educating us about Everest while introducing to us all the various characters. The problems with the film, however, emerge quickly after that.
The feeling I got was that Icelandic director Baltasar Kormákur tried too hard to make a film that is not only realistic but more importantly remains respectful to the real-life people involved in the incident. People often complain when a movie “based on a true story” deviates too far from what really happened, and Everest probably suffers from the reverse of that because it just feels like nothing particularly exciting actually happens. The decision to take very few liberties (at least this was the feeling I got from watching it) and sticking to facts inevitably takes a lot away from the movie experience. It actually made me wonder whether they should have just made a documentary with some dramatic re-enactments instead.
To be fair, it’s not an action movie and the film is much more about the dramatic elements and the psychological anguish than anything else. However, Everest doesn’t quite get that right either, as I felt it lacked the emotional punch I had been hoping for. It stems from the plodding narrative and the simple fact that there are too many characters to keep track of, thereby diluting the connection to each individual character and their respective predicaments.
And I don’t know if this only applied to me, but there were also times when I struggled to tell who was who because everyone was dressed in full snow gear with their faces covered and ice pelting down on them.
The result is a film that never comes close to heart-pounding suspense and moving drama it was marketed as having. Despite the great cast and solid performances all round, Everest ends up being a well-made and respectable true-story film but also ultimately a hollow affair.
3 stars out of 5