Sunday, November 01, 2015

Everest - falling short

movie review

Everest fails to make it to the top because of lack of details and limited depth of characters


Starring: Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin, John Hawkes, Robin Wright, Emily Watson, Keira Knightley, Sam Worthington, and Jake Gyllenhaal
Directed by: Baltasar Kormákur
Tagline: Never let go.

Despite (or perhaps because of) the inherent danger in the quest, thousands of people have tried to summit the highest peaks in the world. But the smallest misstep or misfortune can leave climbers exposed to the severest elements of nature, struggling for survival. Everest is the story of one such ill-fated attempt that ended in tragedy.

Based on real events of the 1996 Mount Everest disaster, which, until last year, was the deadliest day on the world’s highest mountain, the film tells the story of a group of climbers that were caught in a severe storm while trying to conquer the daunting peak.

The movie commences as several commercial expeditions — most prominently the teams led by guides Rob Hall (Jason Clarke) and Scott Fischer (Jake Gyllenhaal) — set off to ascent the summit of Mount Everest. Hall’s clients include pathologist and mountaineering enthusiast Beck Weathers (Josh Brolin), mailman Doug Hansen (John Hawkes), who is making his second effort to climb to the top, experienced climber Yasuko Namba (Naoko Mori), who has already scaled all but one of the Seven Summits, the highest mountains of each of the seven continents, and journalist Jon Krakauer (Michael Kelly), who has been poached from Fischer’s team.

Amidst delays because of overcrowding, Hall persuades Fisher to cooperate during the mission. But a series of misfortunes await the mountaineers. Soon after summitting, the climbers find themselves in the middle of a fierce storm, leaving them in a life-or-death struggle in brutally harsh conditions.

With Icelandic director Baltasar Kormákur at its helm, the film does a terrific job in capturing both the splendour and the hostility of Mount Everest. But despite a considerably slow build up, the movie doesn’t really explore or define its characters beyond unoriginal archetypes. Not many of them are given much back-story, and the lack of details and personality makes the characters seem underdeveloped.

To his credit, Kormákur doesn’t ‘Hollywoodise’ the disaster by slathering the proceedings with over-sensationalised cinematic peril. But as affecting as the story at Everest’s core is, it has already been told numerous times through various mediums, including books, documentaries, and even a made-for-TV movie, some of which present a significantly more comprehensive look at the events that unfolded during that fateful expedition. If you already know the tale that this film is retelling — or even if you are just expecting someone to thrillingly save the day — then you’ll find the film lacking in suspense, bereft of a cliff-hanger.

Still, while it doesn’t quite keep you on the edge of your seat, Everest does succeed in conveying what a harrowing experience it was for the climbers to be trapped by a blizzard near the summit, and is, on the whole, worth a watch, thanks largely to its solid cast as well as spectacular cinematography and the gripping real-life circumstances it is based on.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

- By Sameen Amer

Sunday Magazine, The Express Tribune - 1st November, 2015 *

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