Everest review – disaster film fails to scale new heights

Everest reduces historic challenge to mountain of cliches

The best disaster films leave you wondering how you would cope faced with such tremendous adversity and impossible odds on survival in the wake of a completely unexpected event. Everest won’t be climbing to the peak of the genre. Beyond its snow-covered chaos and majestic views, there’s little to keep you invested.

Film Title: Everest

The film is based on Jon Krakauer’s first-hand account of the 1996 Mount Everest disaster. Following a major snowstorm, eight people died attempting to summit Earth’s highest mountain.

Director Baltasar Kormákur (2 Guns) slogs through the first hour juggling multiple character introductions and setting the stage for the disaster to follow.

(L to R) Scott Fischer (JAKE GYLLENHAAL) and Rob Hall (JASON CLARKE) in “Everest”. Inspired by the incredible events surrounding an attempt to reach the summit of the world’s highest mountain, “Everest” documents the awe-inspiring journey of two different expeditions challenged beyond their limits by one of the fiercest snowstorms ever encountered by mankind.Friendly-rival expedition leaders Rob Hall (Jason Clarke, Terminator Genysis) and Scott Fisher (Jake Gyllenhaal, Southpaw) take their groups to Everest on a death-defying adventure of personal achievement.

Along for the climb are Beck (Josh Brolin, Guardians of the Galaxy), a boisterous Texas doctor;  Doug (John Hawkes, Lincoln), a mailman hoping his latest chance to summit will be the charm and journalist Krakauer (Michael Kelly, Man of Steel), chronicling the expedition for a piece on summit commercialization.

Kormákur’s pacing is slightly problematic as he’s too quick to get the expedition on the mountain. Normally, that’s a better approach than a long buildup, but Kormákur essentially is just moving the characters from one checkpoint to the next.

There’s not enough context and purpose for the audience that didn’t read the book. The constant onslaught of new characters also makes them hard to distinguish. That’s further complicated as they’re marching along in bulky snow gear.

Film Title: EverestScreenwriters William Nicholson and Simon Beaufoy don’t spend nearly enough time on meaningful character development to explain the lure of the summit.

As Krakauer asks the group their reason for attempting the summit they all respond with an enthusiastic “Because it’s there!” Nicholson and Beaufoy likewise appear to hope the audience is satisfied with that answer as well.

Film Title: Everest

The problem is that it’s hard to work up much sympathy for characters. The come across as having nothing better to do with their time than blow their money. Not to mention possibly risking their lives for seemingly little more than an adrenaline rush.

It’s not like an accident put them in harm’s way, this was literally their choice. The script doesn’t go deep enough into the characters’ mindset as to why this was such an undeniable challenge.

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Across the board, the acting is strong. While the script hasn’t fully conveyed these bonds, the actors do a tremendous job in conveying their characters’ emotions throughout the process. Clarke delivers another earnest performance. Kiera Knightely, who plays Rob’s pregnant wife, and Emily Watson, who plays Rob’s base camp operations manager, also stand out.

Film Title: Everest

From a technical standpoint, Everest soars. Salvatore Totino’s cinematography is outstanding. He puts you right into the treacherous terrain, ice-encrusted hills and a beautiful snowy landscape against a bright blue skyline.

Once the storm hits, Kormákur is able to amp up the intensity and sense of immediacy.  Watching the expedition fight a losing battle against the worst case scenario is impressive.

For the less daring adventurers like myself, this will be as close as scaling Everest as we’ll come. It’s definitely a majestic sight. If money isn’t an object, viewing the film in IMAX 3D really is the only worthwhile option. Just don’t go in expecting any emotional connection beyond watching a disaster spectacle.

Film Title: Everest

There’s no doubt a great film to be told about this ill-fated expedition.  Everest is too consumed by the storm that it forgets to make you care about those lost in it.

Rating: 5 out of 10

Photo credit: Jasin Boland/Universal Studios

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  • I read your reviews for a very long time now, Jeffrey, and I thought that I had to tell you what I think for the first time :).

    I find your review very hard because I thought that the film is on point with the emotions of the caracters. I didn’t expect to, but I felt sorry for Jason Clarke’s group. Kormakur didn’t use a long prologue to introduce them but there were a few scenes that did the job as the one with J. Brolin and J. Hawkes before the storm.

    Nevertheless, I agree with you on that point regarding Gyllenhall’s character. I wanted to know more about him, more about his hunger for climbing this mountain. That may be my main problem with the film. Gyllenhaal might be one of the greatest right now, his character is so thin I couldn’t be sad about his demise.

    Anyway, keep up the good work, Jeffrey, I’m always interested in your reviews even when I don’t agree (but that’s the beauty of cinema, right?).

    [I may have slipped a few grammatical mistakes but English is not my native language, so excuse me for it. Yes, Jeffrey, you are read in France, haha]

  • Hey!

    I actually appreciate reading other thoughts on films I didn’t enjoy. It makes things interesting so long as everyone’s respecting every one else’s opinions.

    I think I’m in the minority on not feeling anything for Clarke’s group so no worries there.

    Your grammar was great my friend. I’m not spell checking or doing grammar check on anyone. This is a fun site so it’s all good here. Thanks for commenting and hope to hear from you again soon!

  • Peter

    I applaud Working Title for breaking new ground and not sticking to the ‘Into Thin Air’ version of the 1996 Everest tragedy, which is maybe why this book is not in this film’s Credits, something that has not gone unnoticed by some professional reviewers.

    Working Title/the Director referred to Jon Krakauer as ‘a writer who just happened to be on the mountain at the time’. To learn more about what actually caused this seminal event you will need to read ‘A Day to Die For’ and ‘After the Wind’. Well done Working Title and Baltasar Kormakur for daring to break the mold!