Genre: Adventure and Thriller Running Time: 2 hrs. 1 min.
Release Date: September 18th, 2015 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Baltasar Kormakur Actors: Jason Clarke, John Hawkes, Naoko Mori, Emily Watson, Sam Worthington, Keira Knightley, Josh Brolin, Jake Gyllenhaal, Robin Wright, Vanessa Kirby
espite observing different philosophies in mountain climbing, the huge boom of clients in the year of 1996 brings Adventure Consultants head Rob Hall (Jason Clarke) together with Mountain Madness founder Scott Fischer (Jake Gyllenhaal) to lead their respective expeditions to the summit of Mount Everest. Capitalizing on their combined resources and increased manpower, the two experienced climbers manage to guide their groups to the punishing peak. But when a ferocious storm sweeps across the pinnacle, the determined cragsmen must contend with the perils of avalanches and severe winds and the crippling effects of hypothermia and fatigue.
The story begins in New Zealand, where several of the characters are allowed moments to chummily interact or introduce their relationships. Quick backstories and family complications attempt to generate sympathy and humanity for the thrill seekers, who will inevitably put themselves in harm’s way. The problem is that these bits of character development fail to give any real insights into the players (of which there is quite an ensemble) and they utterly fail to garner compassion. Spearheading this monotonous effort are Keira Knightley and Robin Wright as anxious wives, put on display for no other reason than to include recognizable female stars. Their contrived involvement, though intended to boost the emotional impact (one weepy phone call even serves as something of a climax), is so nearly comical that it isn’t even effectively manipulative. Any important drama could have been established solely in the Himalayas to tidy up the pacing.
At the heart of it all is the inescapable notion that none of the participants have a noble cause for doing the climb; in one scene, various trekkers gather inside a tent to trade stories about why they’re attempting the summit of all summits – and every answer is ambiguous or unsure. The takeaway is that greed is the biggest enemy, not the unpredictability of the mountain – whether that motivation is strictly monetary gain or to escape the stresses of regular jobs and unfulfilling family life by taking a decidedly risky – and very selfish – vacation. It isn’t reiterated enough (intentionally, of course) that everyone engaged in the deadly activity knew the risks (it’s mentioned in the foreword that one in four people die while trying to ascend Everest). They’re like bullfighters who get gored. Are the bulls to blame?
Furthermore, “Everest” lacks any real heroism. Despite the spirit of competition, the camaraderie, and the teamwork, the events of the film don’t encompass any harrowing rescue attempts. It’s merely a dramatization of daredevils succumbing to the extremeness of their sport. A 40-day training period filled with various stops (such as a climbers’ memorial and a monastery), three acclimating ascents that conclude with returns to the base camp, and plenty of subtitles denoting elevations all serve to build tension, but ultimately just drag out a largely uneventful movie. The action is brief and the suspense is intermittent; it’s too much “Titanic” and not enough “Cliffhanger.”
In its defense, the cinematography is stunning, seamlessly blending together impressive footage of actual locations with the actors on decidedly safer sets. But the sights can’t sustain a two-hour picture, which struggles to contain enough survivalist adventure to counteract all the impotent, overly sentimental moments. “Everest” doesn’t necessarily need more thrills, but it could definitely use fewer tearful faces or self-pitying mountaineers crying over bad decisions fueled entirely by desperation and the need for egocentric, personal accomplishments.
– The Massie Twins