Review – Everest

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Stars: Jason Clarke, Jake Gyllenhaal, Josh Brolin
Director: Baltasar Kormakur
Certificate: 12A (some nasty frostbite closeups)
Running Time: 121 mins
Release Date: 11th September 2015

In 1992, a New Zealander called Rob Hall had an idea – why not set up a commercial operation allowing anyone with enough money the opportunity to summit Everest? Climbing ability wouldn’t be an issue, as ladders, oxygen tanks and sherpas would do all the difficult work for you. As long as you didn’t mind the possibility of losing a couple of toes to frostbite and experiencing the excruciating pain of oxygen deprivation, you too could achieve something nowhere near as meaningful as it was when Sir Edmund Hillary did it! All was fine until 1996, when his expedition was struck by a terrible storm, which had devestating consequences. Including, but not limited to, being represented on screen by Jason Clarke 20 years later

Everest is a film caught between two genres. As you might have inferred from the title, it’s all about a bunch of people scaling the highest mountain in the world (with disastrous consequences!), thus allowing it to slot in nicely alongside other man-versus-nature’s-terrible-wrath efforts like The Perfect Storm. But more than that, I was reminded of the likes of Valentine’s Day. Instead of witnessing a diverse range of characters weave a tapestry of interlocking love stories, we instead see a collection of rich white dudes make a series of terrible decisions which embroil them in a range of interlocking high-altitude catastrophes

Everest has a lot of problems, most of which are inherent to the setting and can’t easily be solved. All of the characters become an indistinguishable mass of oxygen masks, sunglasses and beards once they reach a certain altitude, and any possibility of telling them apart by accent goes away once they all start slurring due to oxygen deprivation. What dialogue there is tends to be drowned out by howling winds, incredibly trite, or delivered by Keira Knightley attempting an Australian accent clearly honed by years of watching daytime soap operas without really paying attention. But the biggest problem of all is the almost complete absence of drama, with the pacing apparently designed to provide the most accurate possible simulation of the sensation of slowly freezing to death before dying anticlimactically

It’s not a great film, then, but it is at least a good looking one. It’s been filmed with IMAX in mind from the very beginning, and the sweeping vertiginous camerawork adds shot of drama to the whole thing that the narrative just can’t provide. The eponymous mountain is the undisputed star of the show, with the glittering names that make up the rest of the cast either on autopilot (Clarke), in surprisingly small roles (Gyllenhaal) or woefully miscast (Knightley). It’s one of those films that you really have to see on a big screen – or rather it would be, if it weren’t for the existence of the far more sensible option of simply not bothering to see it at all

Our Verdict: 4/10


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