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Movie Review: Everest
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Adam Frazier   |  @   |  
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Everest, starring Jason Clarke

Everest
Director: Baltasar Kormákur
Screenwriter: William Nicholson, Simon Beaufoy
Cast: Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin, John Hawkes, Emily Watson, Keira Knightley, Sam Worthington, Jake Gyllenhaal
Universal Pictures
Rated PG-13 | 121 Minutes
Release Date: September 18, 2015

Based on the tragic events of the 1996 Mount Everest disaster, Everest is the story of two expeditions to the summit of Earth’s highest mountain, one led by Scott Fischer (Jake Gyllenhaal) and the other by Rob Hall (Jason Clarke).

Directed by Baltasar Kormákur (2 Guns, Contraband), Everest is a film about surviving incalculable risks in the most inhospitable conditions on the planet.

As head of the New Zealand-based Adventure Consultants, Rob Hall leads an expedition of men and women to the summit of Everest, which is 29,029 feet above sea level. As the experienced mountaineer explains to his clients, “Human beings simply aren’t built to function at the cruising altitude of a 747. Our bodies will be literally dying. Everest is another beast altogether.”

Among Hall’s clients are Texas doctor Beck Weathers (Josh Brolin), mailman Doug Hansen (John Hawkes), journalist Jon Krakauer (Michael Kelly), and Yasuko Namba (Naoko Mori), a Japanese climber on a quest to climb seven of the world’s tallest mountains.

Joining Hall’s team is Scott Fischer and his Mountain Madness crew, including guides Anatoli Boukreev (Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson) and Neal Beidleman (Tom Goodman-Hill). Their joint expedition is thrown into peril when a violent storm engulfs the mountain, swallowing the climbers up in darkness.

Written by William Nicholson (Les Misérables, Gladiator) and Simon Beaufoy (The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, 127 Hours), Everest should be better than it is. While Kormákur delivers on thrilling action sequences, the human element of the story is dwarfed by Everest and the visual effects used to recreate the harrowing 1996 expedition.

An impressive cast featuring Emily Watson, Keira Knightley, and Robin Wright is wasted on a narrative that fails to explain why humans risk their lives to reach the summit. Even when they make it to the top, there is no overwhelming sense of beauty or awe that makes the precarious trek worth it. Maybe it’s because we know most of the scenery is computer-generated, or perhaps it’s because we never really relate to any of the characters.

Am I supposed to care simply because this is based on a true story? Should I be invested in Kormákur’s film because I’ve already read Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air or seen David Breashears’ documentary, Storm Over Everest? Every person involved in this tragic story had their own struggles – a series of triumphs and defeats that led them to scale this mountain – but here they’re nothing more than a collection of cliches and characterizations.

Everest may work as a big-budget disaster movie, but it fails to resonate in a meaningful way. Kormákur’s film is less Into the Wild and more Vertical Limit, a flat, uninvolving work that relies too heavily on spectacle instead of the men and women at the heart of this harrowing journey.

Trailer

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