So I watched Everest…
Watching this movie was quite an exciting prospect for me; no, I’m not a fan of mountain climbing, the real reason I was excited was because this was my first time watching a movie in IMAX. I watch a lot of movies but I’ve never been motivated to make the trip across town to the IMAX theatre but a movie about climbing Mount Everest seemed like it deserved the gravity and scale that only an IMAX theatre can provide.
Okay, basic plot: Rob Hall (Jason Clarke) is a professional mountain climber who runs a company called Adventure Consultants which provides commercial mountain climbing expeditions up Mount Everest. On May 10th, Rob and a group of eight clients prepare to make their final ascent to the summit of the mountain when a deadly blizzard hits. Rob and the other climbers must now try to survive the grueling conditions, proving that as big a challenge as climbing Everest is, getting back down again may be infinitely more difficult.
Often after I watch a movie, I’ll google it – to get the spelling of actor’s names, images for my review and a visit to the Wikepedia page for more information. Now all Wikepedia pages on movies follow the same format – the first sentence contains: the title of the movie, year of release and its country of origin. Now with regards to the country of origin, I’ve found that there are two broad categories – American films and non-American films (e.g. British films). Non-American films tend to be more heartfelt, accurate depictions of the story; whereas, American films have that razzle and dazzle Hollywood style to them, where a little fiction is infused into the fact of the story to make it more tense and, most of the time, more exciting and entertaining. Reason I mention this is because Everest is a British-American-Icelandic film (so in my view non-American) and you can really tell that from the style of storytelling in the film.
I don’t know how historically accurate this movie is but it feels very authentic. The director allows the weight of the story to drive the film forward instead of sensationalism. This leads to charming and heartfelt characters with a more genuine quality to them. This further adds to the authenticity of the movie. The subject matter of this film is already so amazing and so unbelievable that you don’t need to add too much to it to make it extraordinary. This movie, at times, feels like a documentary or pieces of found-footage because it’s so genuine and heartfelt. In the end, this is a movie about the strength of human endeavour and the human spirit and its power to overcome the impossible.
Now while I did appreciate this movie’s grounded approach to its storytelling, I did feel that there were certain moments where it could have done with some Hollywood flare, in particular, with the depiction of certain deaths. Now this is going to make me sound like a serial killer but there often wasn’t enough time to savour the deaths of certain characters. To extract the full emotion of such poignant moments you need a melancholic melody and sufficient time to mull over the death so you can fully digest it; but this time isn’t often given to you. To be fair, there were certain instances where there’s no time to think about one character dying because a host of new dangers are threatening the surviving characters.
This movie has an all-star cast and this is, in fact, the reason I decided to watch this movie. I didn’t see the trailer or anything, I saw the poster, saw the quality of the cast and decided I had to see it. I think the fact that this movie’s cast is so well-known actually does more harm than good. It’s a little bit distracting and detaches you from the story because you’re constantly being reminded that you’re watching a movie. Of course, you know you’re watching a movie; but, it’s like bad CGI, it reminds you that the thing in front of you is fake and that always lowers my engagement in a film. But the actors themselves do amazing jobs.
Jason Clarke is really the emotionally centre in this movie and manages to be the standout star in a film filled with stars. There’s an understated eloquence in the beauty of his portray of Rob Hall. I think playing simple, down-to-earth characters can be quite challenging because there are no moments of dynamism and outrageous behaviour to fall back on. You have to embody the spirit of the character and convey intense emotions in much more soft-spoken ways which, I think, requires greater skill. Josh Brolin and Jake Gyllenhaal also put in solid performances in this movie.
I enjoyed this movie and a large part of that has to be because I watched it in IMAX. There were moments where the sound waves from the speakers where so loud that I could feel them pulsating through my body. It felt like I was experiencing the winds on Everest. It was an immersive experience but I think director – Baltasar Kormákur – doesn’t make full us of the visual experience that IMAX can be. I almost wish this movie had been in the hands of someone like Peter Jackson because if you watch any of the Lord of the Rings or Hobbit movies, you get the level of visual mastery Jackson has in his film-making. Everest didn’t have enough expansive shots or fully utilise the 3D technology available to it. The sound was amazing but the visuals often didn’t match it – I never felt like I was on top of the world.
Speaking of sound, there are a few scenes where the dialogue between characters is inaudible but I’m going to give the director the benefit of the doubt and assume that he intended to do this to recreate the feeling of blistering winds muting your voice. I’m hoping that’s what he was trying to do.
Overall, Everest is a mammoth movie watching experience. The storytelling is well-paced and heartfelt, the visuals (while lacking at times) are amazing and demand the scale of a movie theatre. Even if you can’t get to an IMAX, I think this movie is best enjoyed on a big screen. Give it a watch 7/10