While nature is a beautiful thing to behold, it is most often times a very dangerous place to actually visit. Sure, living in towns and cities isn’t exactly safe, but at least you can try to reason with a person who is out to harm you. The world’s tallest mountain? It doesn’t care. While it may be awe inspiring in its immensity and may bring you to tears with its sheer beauty, it is a merciless and cruel piece of rock. This is the main thing audiences will take away from the film, Everest.
Everest is based on the best selling novel, Into Thin Air, by Jon Krakauer, which itself documents a real-life 1996 expedition to Mount Everest which went horribly, tragically wrong. The film stars Jason Clarke as Rob Hall, who is the head of New Zealand based company, Adventure Consultants, which guides climbers to the top of the mountain. It also stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Scott Fischer, who is Rob’s friend and rival, and Thanos himself, Josh Brolin who plays the smooth talking Texan, Beck Weathers. Two of the other expedition team who get considerable screen time are Yasuko Namba (played by Naoko Mori), who has climbed six of the seven highest mountains on the planet, and mailman Doug Hansen (John Hawkes) who is making his second attempt to reach the summit.
The film does an admirable job of explaining to the audience what it’s like to climb Mount Everest. And I’m not talking about the actual climb itself. We spend considerable amount of time with scenes that deal with the climbers acclimating themselves to the thinner air, which only gets thinner the higher they go, and with them doing practice runs to further prepare their bodies for the climb. There is also the sacrifices that one must make not only with capital ($65k to climb), but with the emotional toll imposed on loved ones. Not to mention of course, the loss of life that can (and does) happen.
The performances from the cast are strong overall. We get a good sense that these are real people, flaws and all, who have given up much just for the chance to do something not many others have. Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin, and Jake Gyllenhaal in particular deliver some extremely powerful scenes. With that said however, John Hawkes almost steals the show as Doug Hansen with his sympathetic and tragic tale. The people the actors portray are all decent folks that you’d want to be around, which makes it even more devastating to see what terrible fate befalls them.
Make no mistake however, the real star of this film is the titular Everest itself. This movie can almost be considered nature porn during certain moments thanks to the sweeping vistas and jaw dropping landscapes on display. This is a film that needs to be seen in IMAX 3D in order to fully appreciate what it must be like to actually climb this mountain. I’m not usually a proponent of 3D in films, but for Everest, the effect works exceptionally well and truly brings us into the movie in a way that a standard 2D screening couldn’t.
While this film isn’t overtly violent or gory, it is still hard to watch at points. There is something about being buried alive in snow, or just freezing to death, which is profoundly more disturbing than other ways of dying. Perhaps it’s the slow, inevitable, and unavoidable end which makes dying in the cold so… chilling. We see a number of characters, some who are even part of the main cast, meet with cruel and sad deaths. While they did it to themselves by partaking in such a dangerous venture, we can’t help but feel the pain of their loss.
Much like Jaws taught audiences to fear going into the ocean, Everest teaches us not to try to climb mountains. In fact, this movie has made me want to not leave the city period. I’d rather take my chances with a crazed drug addict than try to mess around with nature. This is why movies are made though, to give us a glimpse of things we wouldn’t normally see in our every day lives. In this case, it’s definitely better to watch Everest in a movie theater than try to climb it or any other mountain. Stay away from nature, people! Stay far, far away.
Everest is in theaters now.