The Glasgow Courier - Serving Proudly As The Voice Of Valley County Since 1913

By D.K. Holm
For The Courier 

Film Review: Everest


Courtesy of Walden Media

Jake Gyllenhaal takes on the cold in the adventure/disaster film, Everest.

The beauty of mountain climbing is its absurdity. Climbers do not follow their bliss in order to make scientific discoveries or chart new lands; they do so for self-glorification. It's a competitive sport, against one's own record, and against competing mountain stalkers who are equal or unequal seekers of fame, endorsements, biopics, and book deals.

The recent documentary Meru, which has Montana connections, delved into the psychology of the climber. Jon Krakauer explored this psychology in his book Into Thin Air, about the tragic events of May, 1996, when eight people, both experienced amateurs and rugged professionals, died on a crowded Everest during a sudden storm. The "based on true events" feature Everest is not based on Krakaeur's book, even though he makes a cameo in the form of actor Michael Kelly, but tells the story from the vantage point, more or less, of a minor character whom Krakauer disparaged in his book. Whatever the truth of their dispute, it's unfortunate that this high definition, 3-D movie is not as good as the documentary Meru.

The film begins with New Zealand entrepreneur Rob Hall (Jason Clarke) leading his commission of about 10 clients to the various stages of height, the base camps, on the way to the final climb. In this section, as in any disaster film in the tradition of The Poseidon Adventure and Earthquake, we are introduced to the main players. Among them are the foreshadowingly named Beck Weathers (Josh Brolin), a Texas M.D. who is in essence sneaking out on his disapproving wife (Robin Wright) to do the climb. Also on hand is Doug Hansen (John Hawkes), a Seattle mail carrier who has saved up for the trip over many years. Other members of the party are less significant, including Yasuko Namba (Naoko Mori), a Japanese woman who had already climbed the globe's six other high peaks, and Krakauer, who in real life was covering the event for Outside magazine. Leading another commercial enterprise is the more laid back Scott Fischer (Jake Gyllenhaal), whose role also amounts to a cameo – but then he's been busy lately appearing in every third movie down the aisle.

Of course, the whole point of the exercise, as with all disaster films, whether people admit it or not, is to see the disaster itself, to enjoy a magnitude of icy destruction and to see how various characters deal with death. The "high point," as it were, is the sequence in which one trapped character about to freeze to death talks via satellite telephone with his pregnant wife, about to be a widow (this person's corpse has never been recovered).

This is one of those films that makes the viewer ask of it, "Why do you exist? What are you communicating to me that hasn't been conveyed adequately if not better by other media – magazine articles, books, documentaries, and TV movies?" The Into Thin Air story has been translated into all those formats. It's a story about something that doesn't happen – a successful if suspenseful account of brave if also foolish people attempting to "summit" – as mountain climber's "verb" it – with only partial success, i.e., a lot of them die.

Ultimately, Everest is an unexpectedly dull movie, not helped by some at times terrible because obvious green-screen special effects, and the fact that the actors' faces are almost always covered by an armory of glasses, mouth coverings, helmets, and sun-screen. We're asked to care about people whom half the time we can't even see. Worse, though, is that the film fails to answer, much less ask except for a brief exchange at the beginning, the question of why. Well, here's some unsolicited advice. Hey, don't climb every mountain.


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