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Movie Breakdown: Everest (Noah)

September 17, 2015


The Impression:

Great cast, but a trailer and a promise of IMAX excitement that makes me think this could be all visual flash and no substance.

The Reality:

Everest feels like a 1980s event film. It’s a big film with a star-studded cast (Jason Clarke, Jake Gyllenhaal, Kiera Knightly, etc,) that recreates one of the worst moments in the history of Mt. Everest, but it never loses its heart: the story of a bunch of people who, for a variety of reasons (stupid or otherwise) got stranded on a terrible mountain in a terrible storm. The film tells the story of Rob Hall’s disastrous attempt to scale Mt. Everest (an event recorded in John Krakauer’s book Into Thin Air) with a crew of experienced, but still, paying clients. Director Baltasar Kormakur turns away from embellishing a story that’s already heartrending and visceral in a sense that poured cold into my bones, and decides instead to focus on the small mistakes that lead to a troupe of 19 men and women being stranded 30,000 feet above sea level. The film doesn’t try and push terribly hard to get a strong pace going, instead it builds and builds and builds, the disaster at the heart of the film clearly creeping up, until the audience is tearing at their eyes and ears, just waiting for something awful to happen. Kormakur doesn’t hit every nail on the head – Gyllenhaal’s portrayal of a mountaineering peer is one note and limited by a script that gives him nothing to do and there’s a whole lot of the film dedicated to building up the over-crowding of the mountain because of summit tourism that never really becomes anything – but, still, for the most part, the film works. Especially in terms of capturing the shittiness that climbing Mt. Everest is. It’s cold and hard on your body and brutal in terms of exertion and when the credits rolled I had no desire whatsoever to set foot on a peak like that for the remainder of my life. Jason Clarke continues to prove himself to be an exceptionally talented leading man (the kind we don’t see too much of in Hollywood anymore) and Josh Brolin turns in a nuanced performance as a red-state millionaire with an adrenaline addiction and a heart of gold. This isn’t a blockbuster, though it’s marketed itself that way. It’s a solid piece of filmmaking that never sells itself out for cheap emotion, but instead tells a real story with real consequences.

The Lesson:

Sam Worthington shows up for a few strong scenes in this film, and it made me think that the right role (a small one) in the right film (a smart, but adventurous one) could really let this badly looked upon Aussie shine.

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