“Everest” proves an overall hit with few faults


Photo rights reserved to Everest

Johnny Mocny, Entertainment Editor

Death makes a story. Bear with me here. Not saying that the tragic deaths of real-life people are pleasing to an audience, but tragedy, no matter how big or small, makes a story. That’s why murdering mobsters (Goodfellas), plane crashes (We Are Marshall), and of course natural disasters (This) are go-to formulas for Hollywood. That’s what makes this year’s Everest a peculiar story, the fact that it’s not a story per se, but facts, retold by actors. There is no villain and no character arc, just a recount of a terrible storm that happened on Mount Everest, the people who survived, and the people who didn’t. That’s what makes this a difficult film to review.

Everest is a retelling of true events that occurred on May 10th, 1996 following a massive storm that trapped multiple mountain climbers on the top of Mount Everest. Jason Clarke plays Rob Hall, the man who led a team of climbers (Josh Brolin, John Hawkes, Michael Kelly, among others) on a trip to summit the tallest mountain in the world, when the storm arrives and begins killing people. Also trapped in the chaos is Scott Fischer (Jake Gyllenhaal), a climbing competitor. Hall’s pregnant wife Jan Arnold (Keira Knightley) waits at home while his companions at base camp (Sam Worthington and Emily Watson) attempt to send help.

Everest succeeds greatly in two aspects. The first of which is incredible performances all around. Jason Clarke proves again that he’s an amazing talent, and able to lead a huge ensemble. He tackles the strength, pain, and desperateness of Rob Hall with ease. John Hawkes, a really underrated actor, brings a tenderness to his character that causes the audience to feel for him, and tear up when he’s pleading Rob to let him get to the top of Everest. Sam Worthington was a big surprise, bringing the appropriate blend of charisma and machismo to his character, but who really surprised me was Emily Watson, who did a brilliant job at portraying someone who feels completely useless, gasping in horror and panic while trying to stay on top of things. Keira Knightly, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Robin Wright all do fine jobs as expected, but in my opinion the best performance was that of Josh Brolin. He was able to tap into the layers of his character, without being too obvious. When he’s on the ground in pain, you actually feel his pain.

The second thing that Everest succeeds in is its spectacle. The cinematography is sweeping, and the haunting don’t-look-down visuals are flooring. When there is snow being hurtled at these men, I felt cold. When the camera tipped forward and showed the imminent doom someone could fall to, I propped my feet against the chair in front of me. Director Baltasar Kormákur crafted an excellent-looking and sounding film that’s probably his best film yet (although I probably enjoyed 2 Guns a little bit more).

The main downfall to Everest lies in its choppy editing. It was confusing when one minute characters are struggling up a spot where there’s no ropes, and the next minute they’re at the top of the mountain. This also threw off the pacing, which sometimes resulted in a clash of tones. This was helped a little by the incredible score, but was still a bit jarring.

One thing to note is that Everest is not an “inspirational” story like it’s been sold as in the trailers. It’s a bleak thriller that stays strictly to fact, combining tragedy with nail-biting suspense and impressive visuals. Do not go into this movie expecting the feel-good movie of the year, but with great performances and mostly commendable film-making, you could do much worse than seeing Everest on the big screen.