Everest

Everest, the mountain, is a beast. It doesn’t care that you promised a class full of kids that you could do the impossible. It doesn’t care if your pregnant wife is waiting to hear of your success. It’s just big and tall and scary. The mountain always wins.

First, let me tell you this: I have a problem with this movie philosophically that means this review is going to be biased. This isn’t going to be a popular opinion, but here it is: I hate everestmountain climbers. I really do. Not just mountain climbers; I hate anyone who goes out there to find the riskiest behaviour possible, and then recklessly dives into it. I maybe wouldn’t have such a problem with it if all they wasted was their own time, money, and ultimately, lives, but that’s not the case. INEVITABLY, they will get stuck. Luck always runs out. And then we have to rescue them. Embassies will be called. Coast guards will be called. Helicopters, forest rangers, medical evacuations: these things cost money. Park services have to divert huge chunks of their too-precious resources toward rescue operations for idiots who never should have been out there in the first place – just one person can cost HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of dollars. In Europe, they do things a little smarter. The bill goes to the rescuee, who’d better have insurance. But when people go to a third-world country to engage in high-risk behaviour, they call the embassies, who present the bill to the taxpayers back home who, like saps, were at work earning taxable income while these yahoos are out playing mountaineer.

So do I have a lot of sympathy for these guys? No, I do not. Not even if it’s Jake Gyllenhaal in a scruffy beard and manbun.

On to the review:

I saw Everest in all its 3D IMAX glory. Everest has never looked more beautiful, or more brutal. evhighAnd Everest is a real bitch.

1 in 4 climbers died trying to reach her peak until experienced and enthusiastic climbers saw a business opportunity. Jason Clarke and Jake Gyllenhaal play competing Everest tour guides, lending their expertise to guide people up to the peak safely. They’re both leading teams of people up her steep and merciless side in the spring of 1996 (remember, this is “based on a true story”). Among the hopefuls are John Hawkes, playing a guy with not much else going on who really, really wants this one achievement on his resume, and Josh Brolin playing a Texan in a Bob Dole t-shirt, cocky and overconfident as they come.

evcrackNow, you must know that we’re not just here for the visuals, strong as they are. To traverse deep and dark crevasses, ordinary ladders are latched together with rope, and strung maybe a dozen at a time across the abyss, with yet more rope tethering them into the shifty ice. Precarious, much? Now you get to enjoy the sensation of walking across such a contraption, one shaky step at a time, looking past the hiker’s feet down into the bottomless depths where Everest keeps her darkest secrets. It’s dizzying and thrilling and probably not a good idea if you’re afraid of heights. This mountain can be felt.

What I didn’t feel: emotion. Now, going in to a movie like Everest, you’re going to expect some thrills. They probaevjasonbly didn’t choose to tell of the story of that time someone climbed a mountain and nothing happened, the end. You expect a little peril, and you’re going to get it. But you  may remember from several paragraphs ago when I confessed my disdain for mountain climbers. A little peril? Not good enough. I wanted a body count, and I wanted it to be EXCESSIVE. So it’s partly my fault that I didn’t really care whether the people lived or died. But it’s also the fault of the script. First: like the mountain herself, this story suffers from overcrowding. There are simply too many characters to keep track of (and they all look the same in snow-covered parkas), and the back stories are brief if offered at all. No one feels like a fully-fledged character. The cast includes evjoshEmily Watson, Keira Knightley, Sam Worthington, Robin Wright, and a dozen others, and none of them get enough screen time in what’s already a 2 hour movie.  And the story really just trudges along, telling us what’s happening but not bothering to be anything more than a recitation of: incessant cold, high winds, danger, danger, danger.

The cast is great – Gyllenhaal seemed to be trying to inject a little life into his character, but he got shut down a lot. The editing is really great; Mick Audsley keeps us going between the peak and the base camp, ratcheting up the tension with expert precision. And the everest2cinematography is really, really great. Two reallys! Salvatore Totino achieves new heights – literally, and figuratively. He makes us soar, and I had my heart in my throat more than once.

See this one on the big screen. See it for the vistas. See it for every moment of awe-inducing visual adventure – but human drama? Not so much. The mountain always wins, remember, and in this movie, she’s the only character that really matters.

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45 thoughts on “Everest

  1. Paskalis Damar AK

    I read the 1996 Everest tragedy prior to the movie, so I know who’s gonna die and survive, I was expecting a little more character-driven story, but it turns out, the mountain got all the characterization. And the men don’t.
    Seeing on big screen might give extra points, but when it comes to small screen, there’s nothing more to excel.

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  2. Sean

    I’m more interested to see this after reading your review, weirdly, even though it’s clearly not the tour de force/Gyllenhaal Oscars vehicle it seemed to be billed as. And I loved your rant on mountain climbers, as always!

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    1. Jay Post author

      Yeah, for the most part I’m over and annoyed by 3D, but this one is actually worth it.
      (I also saw the trailer for Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s The Walk, about the guy walks across a rope between the twin towers – yowza, that’s some pretty intense 3D.

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      1. Jordan Dodd

        Oh I haven’t heard of that one, is that his second directorial attempt after Don Jon is it?

        And yeah I always saw 3D as a gimmick. But here it seems almost necessary!

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      2. Jay Post author

        Yes, too many characters – and they all look the same in snow suits! I totally thought it was another lady who died!!! I lost track of all those parkas.

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    2. Jay Post author

      It’s Robert Zemeckis directing.

      Did you see the documentary Man on Wire? It’s the same story, this one’s just not a documentary, it’s got JGL being the man on the wire. I can’t decide if it’ll be good or not.

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      1. Jordan Dodd

        Ahh yeah I saw the trailer last night when I saw Everest. Doesn’t look like my sorta thing. I thought Everest was pretty meh too. Too many characters, I didn’t know who was who.

        Plus what you said, your opening sentiment about people doing dangerous shit, I’m with you.

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  3. ridicuryder

    Jay,

    I’m not going to see Everest. We haven’t gone back to the moon is several decades…it’s been done enough. Abolish search and rescue missions unless they are plucking flood / forest fire victims out of harm’s way.

    Mountain climbers and other extreme weirdos need to be left to their own devices…their sport would be more impressive that way, but still just a circle jerk of sorts.

    RR

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    1. Jay Post author

      I know. I’m all for rescuing people caught up in real emergencies, but have no sympathy for the people who went looking for it (although I am thinking now about people who refuse to evacuate their homes, and then get plucked rather dramatically off their roofs).

      In the movie, these guys are so macho about their sport until the storm comes, and then they’re all begging their wives to send rescues. And what super pisses me off is that the rescue people have to risk THEIR lives for these jerks!

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      1. ridicuryder

        Hi Tom,

        Yes…you’re an extreme weirdo (so am I). The problem with looking at people who want to climb Everest as regular people is we can allocate certain sums to helping out regular people. Extreme weirdos need to own their weirdness and accept not being bailed out by regular people…who would rather direct funds towards broader initiatives. Lets say $100,000 is spent on getting you off a mountain (or in my case a boat I took to sea)…that same $100,000 could have been used to keep a third world village in education and basic medical supplies for 3 years. Where would the average person rather apply the money?

        When you drive over a bridge you don’t see twenty people along each side about to jump off. Most people understand that this is a really good way to die and only do it if they are really serious about it. I’m all for being death defying…tromp off into the wilds. Die out there once in a while (it builds character).

        Just know what you are doing. If you need a back-up develop an Extreme Weirdo’s Insurance Network” and keep your annual dues up. Self insurance in the best sense of the term is know-how, preparation and some luck. Very little of this gets developed because many society’s have “Concerned Moms” who would prefer to fuck over the third world (or some other worthy social endeavor) rather than let their baby get a hard (possibly fatal) lesson.

        We all used to drive around drunk a few nights a week until mothers took the fun out of that. What we really need now is a Mothers Against Dumb Dollars. They could develop a whole public awareness campaign around how it is better to put money into stuff that makes sense…leaving a lot of dipshits out in the cold.

        Enjoy the wilderness, but be on your game because some of it is fucking wild. If you want the safety net of civilization then stay in town or well travelled areas…trying to take a civilian safety net into the woods or up a mountain is missing the point.

        Cheers,
        RidicuRyder

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      2. SLIP/THROUGH - Dan

        Is inspiration priceless? (As far as the tax payer debate goes.) These men must risk their lives for some reason. They reach for the impossible, even if they can’t grab it. It’s cheesy, but these guys inspire us all to go for our dreams. I think John Hawkes’ character exemplified this beautifully.

        That said, I do understand your compelling point. The individual must decide what’s more important – the tangible or the intangible?

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Jay Post author

      Oh my god, I saw that movie and literally had a draft of a review for it that sat in my folder for months because I hated the movie, but didn’t even hate it in an interesting enough way to write anything worthwhile about it. It was just bad!!! Thanks for reminding me 😉

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  4. Billy

    Sigh, I agree with you on the mountaineering thing, I love mountains but not much impressed with ice, so i guess the only good thing in this would be lovely looking now blockbuster addicted Jake, and since he’s covered in a blooming parka (apart from that shot you show up there) I think I’ll give it a miss and wait for it being free on Netflix. 🙂

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  5. Brittani

    “No, I do not. Not even if it’s Jake Gyllenhaal in a scruffy beard and manbun.” – I lol’d pretty hard at this.

    I was at a conference once where one of the speakers had climbed Everest twice. She didn’t make it to the top the first time, but did the second. Her talking about it made me nope the hell away from this movie. It just sounds so brutal, and I read about the 1996 tragedy already, so I know what will happen. Maybe I’ll see it on DVD. There are no IMAX’s near me to get the full effect anyways.

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  6. momus83

    I have a feeling I was more entertained by this review than I will be by the movie. Although if it comes to my local pub and cinema combo locale I may see it as I’ll lower my standards quite a bit if wine and jalapeno poppers are in the mix. I mean I went to see “The Place Beyond the Pines” there (there was almost not enough Chardonnay for that one).

    The anti-mountain climber paragraph is a beautiful, inspiring rant. I fear my stance might extend to anyone who achieves anything through great physical effort and perseverance even if they do not become a costly public hazard. I just hate them in an automatic Reptilian brain way.

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    1. Jay Post author

      Oh, that’s my secret belief also. But I’ll rant about people who yammer on about marathons in another post!!!
      And I love your spirit. Are you secretly an Asshole? We love to watch movies with cocktails and cheese sticks! We’ve seen quite a few bad ones that way, and the blow is much lessened.

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  7. Birgit

    I am not surprised that the mountain gets all the glory. Often, when special effects and thrills come into play, the actual story and characters suffer. It would still be neat to see this in the theatre. Last week we had the displeasure of seeing The Visit

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  8. SLIP/THROUGH - Dan

    Great review. I think you nailed it. Your opening paragraph is awesome. It perfectly sets the stage. The visuals are astounding, but the story and characters don’t compare. Everest definitely felt a little lacking with most of its emotional moments. That said, it’s worth the spectacle of the Imax screen.

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  9. Chris

    I’m a bit iffy about Everest. As you note, a visually spectacular film to go see on the big screen, but the rapports I’ve read say it’s lacking in other aeras /: I’d rather rewatch Alive (1993) or Touching The Void (2003) where I do care whether the people lived or died.

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  10. reocochran

    Jay, you may think I am way “off base” but I think you and I are alike in how we crave character development over action. I agree, I want to know how they Feel!
    In other words, I could watch a documentary about Mt. Everest but if I go see the movie, I would like more depth. I will wait for this on DVD, Jay.

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