‘Everest’ impressive, but impersonal
By Bob Bloom
“Everest” is like the mountain that looms over this intense drama — impersonal and foreboding.
The 3-D movie, based on true events, retells the 1996 tragedy in which eight climbers lost their lives during an excursion to conquer the mighty peak.
The feature, directed by Baltasar Kormákur, is an impressive and solid drama. But it lacks the emotional resonance necessary to fully engross you in the life-threatening situation in which the climbers find themselves.
“Everest” can be seen as an indictment of man’s hubris. Climbing a peak such as this Himalayan giant requires a skill set few people possess.
Turning the climb into a business in which companies such as Adventure Consultants and Mountain Madness take clients — some of whom are ill equipped for the experience — on such a rugged and dangerous ascent is foolhardy and reckless.
The traffic jam of climbers on the mountain when a severe storm hits contributes to the confusion and the fatalities that ensue.
Before they start the expedition, the climbers — who include characters played by Josh Brolin and John Hawkes — are told of the dangers and what to expect as they reach heights in which the body can actually start to die.
The climbers do undergo some training to become acclimated to the higher altitudes and thinning oxygen.
Yet, nothing can prepare them for the unknown hazards they encounter. Many overestimate their stamina; others, despite the use of oxygen tanks, have difficulty dealing with the thinner atmosphere.
The film’s main problem is its unwieldy cast. Beside Brolin and Hawkes, you have Jason Clarke as Rob Hall, leader of Adventure Consultants, and Jake Gyllenhaal, the head of Mountain Madness.
Others in the cast include Sam Worthington, Emily Watson, Robin Wright and Keira Knightly.
At times, it seems Kormákur treats the climbers and support teams as props. On one level, you become superficially concerned for those trapped on the mountain when the blizzard hits, but the film fails to dig deep into your psyche to allow much empathy.
And it seems that the purpose for Watson, Knightley and Wright is displaying concern and fright or crying over the unfolding disaster.
I will admit the comparison is unfair, but the recent documentary, “Meru,” about a trio of rock climbers attempting to reach the summit of a peak in the Himalayas in northern India, was much more compelling and — most importantly —more personal.
In “Everest,” we do feel for those who died, but we fail to mourn them simply because Kormákur fails at allowing us to know and engage the characters.
The film is a muscular feature that is impressively splendid on an IMAX screen. But the lack of character development, unfortunately, diminishes the effort.
Bloom is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. His reviews appear at ReelBob (reelbob.com) and The Film Yap (filmyap.com). He also reviews Blu-rays and DVDs. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ReelBobBloom. Other reviews by Bloom can be found at Rottentomatoes: www.rottentomatoes.com.
2½ stars out of 4
(PG-13), disturbing images, intense danger, language