A series of film reviews and opinion pieces from a film student and all round movie lover! Happy reading!
Directed By: Baltasar Kormákur
Produced By: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Brian Oliver
Written By: William Nicholson, Simon Beaufoy
Starring: Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin, Jake Gyllenhaal, John Hawkes
Running Time: 121 Minutes
It is in the very nature of human beings to be curious, daring and fuelled to defy limitations. If we’re not submerging ourselves and exploring the deepest, darkest depths of the ocean floor, we’re inventing aircrafts capable of reaching unfathomable speeds.
Everest is the latest biographical survival epic focusing on the theme of disaster, based upon the 1996 trek to the summit of the world’s highest and deadliest mountain that obviously shares the same name. A film that could have easily been on the level of 2012, San Andreas or even Into The Storm, Everest is deep, emotional and highly affecting, soaring higher than those films could ever imagine.
During the 1990’s, commercial expeditions to Mount Everest began to operate and grow in popularity. This meant that anybody with a spare $60,000 could train and part-take in a perilous, dangerous journey, risking death with the desire to reach the highest point on Planet Earth.
The man in charge of the specific 1996 expedition, Rob Hall (played by Jason Clarke) was responsible for popularising the escorted climbs and is set to embark on yet another voyage up Everest, leading a collection of experienced climbers and everyday men who sought the thrill and immense challenge.
Joining Hall are Beck Weathers (Josh Brolin), an experienced Texan climber, Yasuo Namba (Naoko Mori) a veteran climber who has summited 6 of the 7 summits in the world (the highest of each continent), reporter Jon Krakauer (Michael Kelly) and Scott Fisher (Jake Gyllenhaal), the primary guide for a competing expedition group just to name a few. The trek proves too much for some in the early stages, and certain extraneous variables come into play as the group journey higher and higher, however (as the trailer spoils), the group eventually makes it to the top.
What many people forget with Everest, or any mountain for that matter, is that conquering it is a two-stage process; getting back down the mountain is equally as dangerous, difficult and taxing on the body, perhaps even more so.
The primary focus of the film the second stage of the expedition, where disaster strikes in the form of an ominous storm. The climbers must avoid contact with the terrifying storm if they are to survive, and it is at this stage where the film becomes deeply impactful.
The way in which the film is shot and presented (best in IMAX 3D) is superb. The impending doom and threat the climbers face is amplified tenfold by the way Everest is captured. The sheer size of the towering mountain is brought to life through wide angles, low angles, tilts and helicopter shots, giving the sense that Mount Everest is a character in itself.
Not only is height captured from looking up, there are examples of the camera looks down to give the audience a painful dose of vertigo as certain characters look down vast, dark and endless chasms of unforgiving ice and blackness.
The mix of aerial scenery, ground-level images and grand wide shots exhibit the mountain and the unthinkable challenges it has in store for the climbers to its full potential, making for some breathtaking viewing.
Jason Clarke as Rob Hall is at his very best. At first glance, we understand his deep love for his wife Jan Arnold (Keira Knightley) and also his rich passion for exploring the world. As the chief guide, Hall is depicted as a Superman-figure, especially early on. He assists almost everybody in his or her time of need and goes out of his way to make sure the others are okay. Although the writers of the film could have used this as a method of glorification, it really is not the case, especially given as Hall begins to show vulnerability as the pressure builds.
Josh Brolin playing Beck Weathers is a performance unlike anything he’s done before in the sense that he too is a vulnerable individual.
An actor usually associated with strong and hardened characters, Brolin’s Weathers shows signs of weakness throughout the film that in turn shows off his wide acting range. Weathers is an incredible human being whose story alone is one to research and attempt to comprehend. Brolin does a fine job in bringing the fascinating individual to life on the big screen.
Another standout performance and career-best comes from Sam Worthington. His efforts in Everest are miles ahead of anything else he’s done in the past. A quality, engaging supporting role, Worthington fits the part like hand in glove and produces one of the highlights of the film from an acting point of view, which is truly saying something considering the talent on show.
Jake Gyllenhaal also takes a backstop into a solid supporting role that doesn’t disappoint, whilst Robin Wright (who plays Weathers’ wife Peach) is very impressive. The film is littered with solid performances that are believable and as powerful as the next, making this one of the year’s best ensemble casts.
Balthasar Kormákur has created one of the saddest films of 2015. Grim, upsetting and bleak with not many optimistic qualities to speak of, Everest achieves what many of its kind attempt to, and that is to connect with the audience and make them care for these real-life individuals who are now in character-form.
A recurring scene that is particularly potent is nothing more than a phone call transmitted through a satellite receiver, however it carries so much emotional weight to it, one cannot help but shed a tear or two…. or seven.
My girlfriend was commenting on how the film affected her, but I could see it for myself. Thinking about the immense tragedy and loss associated with not just this specific expedition, but also the countless treks before and after 1996, one has to wonder if it’s worth the risk.
It got me thinking about 2003’s Touching The Void, a powerful documentary about a two-man journey up the Siula Grande in Peru, 11 years before Rob Hall’s expedition. That was the first time I personally got a sense of how cruel, how unforgiving and how dangerous the elements can be.
As previously mentioned, humans are curious animals, and it’s in our very nature to explore the extremes of our world. This instinctive desire is captured perfectly when characters reply to being asked “why?” with the simple answer of, “because it’s there!”
Everest is a film that showcases the human spirit and ability to survive in the harshest of situations. It’s also about the fickle, unsympathising temperament of mother nature and the hubris of mankind who too often thinks they’re invincible.
Although the mountain is a character within the film, it’s also nothing more than an enormous rock that possesses the most extreme climates on a daily basis. It doesn’t have feelings, thoughts or emotions. The mountain doesn’t care who you are or what you’re doing, (to quote my father), “you f**k up, you die!” This is the crueller aspect of the film that is the primary focus and alludes back to how it can really have an impact on its audience; be warned.
Everest is one of the better films to emerge from 2015. Visually striking, emotionally driven and surprisingly affecting, it’s one to experience in IMAX if you get the chance. If you aren’t able to see it in theatres and must watch elsewhere, it’s recommended that the bigger the screen, the better. It’s unlike other disaster epics; it’s much, much more.
In many films, a job, a race or perhaps a recovery from injury is the character in question’s “Everest”. For these men, their “Everest” was quite literally, Everest!
The subtitle for this review addressed the notion of Hell. To many, Hell is the fiery pit of lava and suffering that is deep below the surface of our world, but Everest shows that it is in fact frozen, torturous and located at the highest point on the Planet…