Director: Baltasar Kormákur
Screenwriters: William Nicholson and Simon Beaufoy
Runtime: 121 mins
Previewed at: Imax, Sydney, on 9 September 2105
Australian release date: 17 September 2015
Spoiler alert! Everest, by the Icelandic director Baltasar Kormákur, is based on a 1996 climbing expedition that went horribly wrong.
Those of you who read the best-selling book Into Thin Air by John Krakauer, the journalist for Outside magazine who was on the mountain at the time, will be familiar with the tragic set of circumstances that led to the death of the New Zealand mountaineer Rob Hall (Jason Clarke) and seven others.
Hall was in charge of one of a number of teams scaling the mountain on that ill-fated day, the 10th of May. His company, Adventure Consultants, was the first to commercialise climbing Mount Everest and had a very good reputation for safety - indeed, Hall had clocked up five successful attempts to reach the summit, a feat that had only previously been achieved by Sherpa mountaineers. He had well and truly earned his nickname in the business, ‘the mountain goat’, but all his experience couldn’t help him on this fateful occasion. When his party reached the Hillary Step and found that no safety lines had been put in place they were forced to wait in a queue, which created a significant dent in Hall’s plan to start the descent by 2 p.m. He had hoped to avoid getting caught up in the rapidly approaching bad weather, a blizzard that would later strike the south face with lethal force, as any delay in ‘the death zone’ takes a heavy toll on those unfortunate enough to be stuck there.
Everest features an all star cast. As camp manager Helen Wilton - Emily Watson developed a New Zealand accent to perfection; Keira Knightley as Hall’s wife Jan, also got the accent down pat. Other main participants in the drama include Texans Beck and Peach Weather - played by Josh Brolin and Robin Wright. Beck played a significant role in the drama on the mountain when diminished vision forced him to wait for a Sherpa to help him descend safely. Jake Gyllenhaal - as a fatigued Scott Fischer - headed a rival mountaineering company, Mountain Madness, and Sam Worthington as Guy Cotter - a colleague of Hall’s - are all excellent, as is Aussie actor Clarke, who previously seems to have been cast almost exclusively as the bad guy.
Filmed on location in Italy, Nepal and sets at Pinewood Studios, Everest is a highly (pardon the pun) watchable experience, especially in 3D. Cinematographer Salvatore Totino’s camera puts the viewer right in the heart of the action. The precipitous scenery and dire situations get the adrenalin pumping and, even though one knows that much of the film would have been shot against a green screen, the effects are convincing enough to dispel that awareness. Dario Marianelli’s score adds to the tension. There’s something unsettling about watching a group of people setting out on what many of us would consider a fool’s journey but due respect must be given to those who manage to fulfil their dreams, even crazy, dangerous ones like this. It’s even more unsettling if you suffer from vertigo (if you do, you might want to skip this one) but it will certainly appeal to those who want to get to the top of Everest from the comfort of a cinema seat!