Dominic Green gives us his review of the recently released blockbuster 'Everest' by Icelandic Director Balthasar Komakur, revealing that this film has much more substance than your classic mountaineering cringe-fest...
The events surrounding the Everest disaster of 1996 have gripped the imagination of the non-climbing world ever since they first made the headlines.
Several films, John Krakauer’s book ‘Into Thin Air’ and subsequent books written from the perspective of Anatoli Boukreev and Lene Gamelgaard added to the controversy and drama. “Everest” revisits the same story, but this time on a whole new scale.
At its core is the famously heart breaking sat phone conversation between New Zealand guide Rob Hall (played here by Jason Clarke) forced to say goodbye to his wife and unborn child as he dies trapped high on the mountain. As a complete contrast, there is the fate one of his clients, Beck Weathers (played by Josh Brolin) apparently returned from the dead, stumbling off the mountain frostbitten, into the arms of his family.
The Producers of “Four Weddings and a Funeral”, Working Title had been carrying the torch for this project for many years before finally placing it in the hands of Icelandic director Balthasar Komakur.
Having seen the trailer for the film, the impression it gave was of a slick, high drama rendition of the events, full of heavily massaged emotion and sentiment.
The film itself turns out to be much gentler and less bombastic. There is a balance and attention to detail which climbers in the audience will appreciate.
In many ways it has the feel of a film outside its time, having a pace and tone much more reminiscent of movie of a different era such as “The Longest Day” or “A Bridge Too Far”, from a time before popcorn and multiplex Marvel movies took over.
The director Balthasar Komakur effectively communicates each of the stories taking place across the sprawling and complex landscape with great technical prowess. Where there are a few moments that are slightly hyped, such as the inevitable crossing of a crevasse on a rickety ladder, or the moment the fatal storm hits, what CG and time compressions that are in the film feel reasonably justified and in context. Only the most pedantic of critics would roll their eyes.
It is quite possibly a tough story to convince a jaded and cynical modern audience to care about however. None of the female characters are out in the front driving the story onwards. On top of that, the story has an unavoidably tragic ending. Whilst it’s the story that the film makers chose to tell, so they can point to the fact that it is based on true events, they have clearly set themselves a challenge.
Overall they handle that challenge well, without slipping into mawkish sentiment and only applying the musical scoring and CG effects sparingly.
The whole cast are convincing to the core, Beck Weathers could have been cartoonish, but in Josh Brolin’s hands you cannot help but warm to his earnest haplessness. Jake Gyllenhaal and Keira Knightley play surprisingly low key roles with great humanity and subtlety. Maybe a modern audience, drip fed a diet of recriminations on social media and in lurid tabloid headlines, needs not only to know who to like but who to dislike, and who to blame - but this film avoids that temptation.
Watch Dominic's exclusive UKC interview with the film's director, co-producer and actor Jason Clarke below:
Watch the official Everest trailer below: