I’m terrified riding the chairlift at Vermont’s Stratton Mountain, so climbing the world’s highest mountain in the Himalayas was never on my bucket list. And I suspect that watching this terrifying, ultimately tragic trek should discourage others. Read on…
Riffing off Jon Krakauer’s “Into Thin Air,” screenwriters William Nicholson (“Unbroken”) and Simon Beaufoy (“127 Hours”), director Baltasar Kromakur (‘2 Guns”) and cinematographers Salvatore Totino (“The Da Vinci Code”) and Kent Harvey (“Lone Survivor”) focus on the nerve-wracking conditions that led to the death of eight climbers on May 10, 1996.
Cautious, compassionate Rob Hall (Jason Clarke) runs a mountaineering outfit called Adventure Consultants, along with his logistics coordinator (Emily Watson) and fellow guide (Sam Worthington). Back home in New Zealand, Rob’s wife (Keira Knightley) is pregnant with their first child.
Hall’s clients include Krakauer (Michael Kelly), writing a travel article; Texas pathologist Beck Weathers (Josh Brolin), who paid $65,000 for the trip and communicates with his wife (Robin Wright); Seattle mailman Doug Hansen (John Kawkes), tackling the summit for a second time to inspire schoolchildren; and Yasuko Namba (Naoko Mori), a Japanese woman who has ascended six of Earth’s seven major peaks.
Rival guides are leading another group up on the same day: genial, gung-ho American Scott Fischer (Jake Gyllenhaal), whose Seattle-based firm is called Mountain Madness, and mucho-macho Russian Anatoli Boukreev (Ingvar Sigurdsson).
“It’s not the altitude, it’s the attitude,” Fischer insists.
Embarking from Katmandu, Nepal’s congested capital, they traverse gaping crevasses on the treacherous Khumbu Icefall. But once they get up to Hillary’s Step, the final 40-foot wall that’s approachable only by a narrow, single-file path, overcrowding becomes a problem, particularly when they’re battered by an unexpectedly ferocious snowstorm.
While there’s continuing fascination with Everest, in my opinion, the Sherpas are really the unsung heroes. And “The last word always belongs with the mountain.”
FYI: While some filming was done in Nepal’s foothills, most took place in Italy’s Dolomites.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Everest” is an arduous, intensely atmospheric 8 – with spectacular, vertigo-inducing cinematography.