The next report card is for a film based on the 1996 Mount Everest disaster, entitled Everest.
Everest—directed by Baltasar Kormákur; written by William Nicholson and Simon Beaufoy; starring Jason Clarke (Rob Hall), Josh Brolin (Beck Weathers), John Hawkes (Doug Hansen), Robin Wright (Peach Weathers), Michael Kelly (Jon Krakauer), Sam Worthington (Guy Cotter), Keira Knightley (Jan Arnold), Emily Watson (Helen Wilton), and Jake Gyllenhaal (Scott Fischer).
WARNING - SPOILERS BELOW
Let's get one thing out of the way first. Everest is based on John Krakauer's Into Thin Air. The book is Krakauer's account of the events that transpired when he joined Rob Hall's Adventure Consultants group to summit the mountain. The movie is pretty faithful to the book—the biggest difference being that it focuses more on Hall than on Krakauer.
Rob Hall, chief guide and owner of Adventure Consultants, is leading a summit attempt and the stakes are high: not only does he have a magazine writer on his team detailing the endeavor, the mountain is experiencing an extremely crowded season, and the previous year he failed to take his clients to the top. He needs to make this work. At home, his wife is carrying their first child, and he knows he needs to be back for her birth as well. With all his responsibilities, Hall is a kindhearted leader, which in many other instances would be an absolute strength, but when it comes to climbing the highest mountain in the world, it will be a death sentence.
Beck Weathers, family man from Texas, feels he needs to climb the Everest. He is tough and sometimes obnoxious but is likable just the same. His good physical condition is his savior, and before you start complaining he could not have survived in real life, shut up. He did, and he suffered everything that was shown in the movie.
Doug Hansen, a mailman who has tried to conquer the mountain before, wants to get to the top to inspire kids. He wants them to see that even a "normal guy" can achieve the impossible. Doug stole my heart in the book and in the movie. He is a good guy you want to see succeeding, but he is not in great shape and the audience is left knowing something bad will happen to him.
John Krakaeur, a writer for The Outsider magazine, seems to be the only one to follow his instincts. His friendship with Doug is downplayed in the movie (probably because they ran out of time) and Michael Kelly does a fine job portraying him.
Scott Fischer, Mountain Madness guide, competes with Hall, but soon decides to team up to avoid more problems while attempting the summit. He is a party dude who has a serious problem with knowing his limits. His intense need to keep pushing it is his downfall.
With a cast filled with well-respected actors, it is hard to imagine the acting would be bad in this movie. It is not. In fact, I truly believed I was watching the real-life characters I had read about in Into Thin Air. Clarke and Hawkes truly shined in particular. They were vulnerable and very faithful in their portrayal of Rob Hall and Doug Hansen, at least based on the book.
Robin Wright (Peaches Weathers), though only a supporting character, brings warmth and relatability as the wife of true Texan Weathers (an entertaining Josh Brolin). If anything, I wished she had more screen time, but that could easily just be my House of Cards–thirsty self.
VISUALS (FX, MAKEUP, COSTUMES, SETS): B–
The visuals in this movie are breathtaking to say the least. Although I'm not particularly fond of the whole IMAX 3D experience (sue me) I am glad I watched this movie under these conditions. The CGI and digital sets were so seamlessly integrated to the movie's physical aspects, I had a hard time trying to figure out what was real and what was not. Yes, the incoming storm was a bit heavy, but I have never—and will never—climb a mountain like that to know how storms behave in really high altitudes. Overall, they did a really amazing job.
The makeup was also well done. The frostbite and the various degrees of wind burn were delicious. They looked real and gnarly without venturing into gory movie territory. The work done on Beck was faithful to all the injuries the real Beck suffered.
I believe costuming this movie was somewhat of a challenge to the production. How can you have characters covered from head to toe in extreme weather gear and still allow the audience to tell them apart? Though I have to confess I caught myself trying to guess who was who at certain points, especially when most of the characters had their faces covered with oxygen masks, my questions were easily answered by the acting.
In my mind, the costumes were still a success because they did not fall into the trap of designating one specific color to every single character, which would have made them look like mountain-climbing Power Rangers.
MUSIC & SOUND: A–
By no means I am an expert in sound design, but I truly feel the sound mixing and music in this movie were special. The ice cracking, the wind, and the storm made me feel I was there climbing the mountain and that made me anxious, just like the characters were feeling. I tend to be somewhat sensitive to sounds, which made me a bit nervous about watching this movie in IMAX, but I was not overwhelmed (in a negative way) in any moment. Yes, I got startled a couple of times and felt my heart beating a bit faster, but that was probably the filmmakers' objective.
TONE (ACTION, ROMANCE, COMEDY): A–
Suspense and tension shroud this movie just like the mountain's shadow hang around Beck's mind for years. This is not for the faint of heart, and it almost feels like a documentary reenactment at times, especially if you read the book, which I highly recommend as well. That aspect, however, is not a negative in any way. Movies based on real-life tragedies should be treated with some respect and authenticity. Everest does it.
ACTION: Attempted rescues, ice breaking, ladders sliding...this movie is filled with suspenseful action. The characters are not action heroes, however, and they make mistakes along the way just as their real counterparts did.
COMEDY: There are some lighter moments where one might crack a laugh, but this is not a funny movie.
ROMANCE: Nothing overwhelming (thank the gods). We get a glimpse of Hall's and Beck's family lives and their relationships with their wives. The love they share is established and feels real. No complains.
FINAL GRADE: B+
Everest is a solid man-versus-nature movie. The fact that it is based on real events just makes it more intense and allows the audience to connect with characters on a more personal level. We care for these characters, and it hurts us when they fall prey to the mountain.
With that said, if you like movies with a happy ending, this is not for you. Most characters die in horrible ways, and sometimes you don't even get a chance to say your goodbyes. However, anyone who watches the trailer and has seen movies like The Perfect Storm will be able to tell that men who challenge nature hardly ever leave as the winner.
Watch this movie in IMAX if you can and bring a jacket. You will get cold.
WHAT DID YOU THINK OF EVEREST?
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