Mother nature is undeniably a force to be reckoned with and this film goes part of the way to mirroring that strength, but an ensemble cast, a flurry of snow strained predictability and general un-provoking storytelling stop this movie from being the exhilarating experience it should have been.
Taken from the true events in 1996, this movie sees two expeditions attempting to summit Mount Everest. Rob Hall (Jason Clarke) and Scott Fischer (Jake Gyllenhaal) have contrasting methods but unite to try and deal with the increasing size of hopeful climbers. As they climb they face a dangerous oncoming storm threatening their chances of safe descent.
I have to say that the look of the film stands true as the best feature for this outing. Directed with sheer grandeur from Baltasar Kormakur this film does a heroic job in demonstrating the uncaring brutality of Mt. Everest. The cinematography of course does more than the fair share of creative duties and credit goes to Salvatore Totino who makes this IMAX movie come alive with depth and added frostiness. The scope is huge and as the shots sweep alongside the less than forgiving nature of this world breaking mountain, we as the audience can’t help but feel like a speck compared to it. The calmer moments seeing the walkways, ladders and peaks are scary but stunning.
It’s in the latter stages of this film where things avalanche. The stormy shots that surround the frightening weather change are admittedly bold and edited ferociously but a lot is lost in this scenes. What with all the hefty coats, masks and hats, it’s hard to keep track of who’s who, the dialogue becomes overly muffled and things after being built up so well, feel rushed to be over with before you know it. It feels more like a cinematic experience at times which is wrong considering it’s true subject matter, a fact I only remembered again once the real life credits came on screen.
The writing is another part of the trouble I feel also. Taken on by both Simon Beaufoy and William Nicholson, two great writers I may add, this movie suffers a couple of really cheesy lines that for me at least took me slightly out of the grit of the film. The build up is dealt with in a great manner though, it’s a grand shame that the sequence of pounding stormy disasters aren’t delved into further than the spectacle. The major fault is the ensemble scenario, I know clearly they have to follow this because of the amount of climbers that took part but in this, we suffer characters with not enough connection and by the end don’t get that deserved emotional hit. Also by no fault of the writers, casting such a well known rosta of faces doesn’t help the films impressively detracts from the true story.
Jason Clarke is fantastically grizzled but assured as the safer mountain leader. Obviously the writers spent a lot of time on his narrative so Clarke helps Hall feel more rounded and you invest in his plight. Jake Gyllenhaal is electric as he’s proving to be with more and more, he doesn’t gain much screen time but in the scenes he appears he makes you root for the more adrenaline seeking persona. Emily Watson brings the emotional punch as base camp manager Helen. Keira Knightley joins that emotional fanfare as the home stuck pregnant wife to Rob Hall. The film makes no light that she had actually beat Everest also, an interesting back story that could have helped her become less of the weak female cliche added in for star weight and phone call scenes. Josh Brolin is the 100% Texan Beck Weathers and comes in for a severe beating thanks to Everest. He doesn’t get a great much to stand out but does well as the suffering victim. I still haven’t even mentioned Sam Worthington, Robin Wright and John Hawkes who also appear in roles that add to the dragging out of the movie.
This is in no way a bad film, it’s good, just not as powerful as it hoped to be concerning the beast of Everest. It undoubtedly makes you not ever want to attempt climbing the tallest mountain in the world and along with a beautifully fine score and crisp imagery this movie does enough to show off enough altitude spectacle.