It has been often said that anything Hollywood can come up with reality can do it ten times better. Motion picture Everest, directed by Baltasar Kormakur (2 Guns, Contraband), is a film based on true story that if it wasn’t a true story you wouldn’t believe it. It is that wild and that big a story. An epic film is what I think they call films of this sort. A story of perseverance. Humans versus nature. A story that will have you holding your breath and gripping the arms of your seat so tight you’ll leave indents. Buckle up!
Summer is a time for big action films to be released. I guess, the film industry has decided that the heat makes us lethargic and not able to deal with English period pieces. So we get a boatload of Marvel comic book character films and the latest piece of drivel starring Tom Cruise. As summer refuses to die and the warm weather continues we get an icy adventure flick that is better than your average summertime fare. This time it is an infinitely more interesting battle – man versus nature. For gosh sakes, it recently had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival.
What a magnificent set. The world’s tallest peak – Mount Everest. Two expeditions combine in 1996 to make the last push up to the top and then are hit with a huge storm. Things go horribly wrong. Lives are lost. For those who remain alive the physical demands seem inhuman. Doom hangs over almost every moment of Everest so when triumph happens it seems even that much more thrilling.
When you have a film of such a grand scale you need more than a good cast. Kormakur has that in Jake Gyllenhaal, Robin Wright, John Hawkes, Emily Watson, Kiera Knightly, Jason Clarke and Josh Brolin. To that impressive amount of talent he adds the piece de resistence in his insistence of realism. You feel the height, the scale, the horrible weather and the physical and mental strain on the climbers. All this is essential to be invested in the picture and Kormakur recognizes this. He not only recognizes it; he achieves it. Yes, there are some melodramatic moments – that is pretty much unavoidable in film of this sort – but the director keeps the film’s eyes on the prize – realism.
Travel with these men to the precipice of heaven and hell. On Earth. The agony and the glory are both there. The emotion is heightened and every moment is ripe with tension. As the film inches forward seamlessly you become part of the expedition. It happens without you even noticing. Then you are climbing with them. Enduring the cold. Grieving the deaths that occur. It has got you by the heart. You are invested and the battle is won.