Everest (2015) Directed by Baltasar Kormákur. With Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin, Jake Gyllenhaal, Emily Watson, John Hawkes, Sam Worthington, Keira Knightley, Robin Wright and Michael Kelly.
Mountains make great movie stars. They just can’t fail with their mysterious, dominating presence. Mountains are timeless and forever, but difficult to negotiate with and unpredictable, especially the Daddy-mountain of them all…the highest on Earth: Everest. Baltasar Kormákur’s film is based on the events that took place during a series of commercial expeditions to the summit of Mount Everest in 1996.
With an impressive ensemble cast, headed up by Jason Clarke (he keeps getting these big gigs), the film boasts some compelling cinematography by Salvatore Totino which does a fine job of describing the beauty and danger of the landscape.
In the past, I have found Jason Clarke to be a bland leading presence, but here, he’s the glue that holds Everest together (said out of context, there’s a claim!). Perhaps it’s partly because we’re on ‘based on a true story‘ ground, but I found myself caring a lot about what happened to him, and the people he’s trying to guide up and down the mountain. The moment the flick was switched and I became invested, was during a pre-climb telephone conversation with his wife (Keira Knightley – yeah, he wishes!). It’s something that’s often overlooked in these big, ambitious films, but sometimes, a minor moment of genuinely played drama can go a long way.
It’s curious how much acting talent shows up to do not very much in Everest. Both Robin Wright and Keira Knightley literally phone their performances in, while Emily Watson, John Hawkes and Jake Gyllenhaal are in nominal roles, considering the depths of their respective screen talents. There’s Josh Brolin and Sam Worthington too, indeed, the film does suffer from feeling a little crowded, at times, as director, Kormákur, seems to fight a losing battle over who or what he should place the most importance on.
In summary, there is a lot to admire about the breathtaking spectacle of Everest, between the seamless use of CGI and on-location cinematography. In terms of storytelling and character, it’s muddled and dawdles in the build up to the expedition, for the first 40-or-so-minutes. Once the trip begins in earnest, though, the film finds its purpose and evolves into an absorbing battle for survival, amid heartfelt feelings of tragedy and triumph. 3.5/5