Everest (Baltasar Kormakur, 2015)
Based on the 1996 Mount Everest disaster, during which eight climbers were killed attempting to reach the summit, Everest is possibly the most depressing film of the year, and is accompanied by a pervasive sense of dread. Rob Hall (Jason Clarke) is the head of Adventure Consultants, an expedition company that leads high-paying clients to the top of Everest. Among his clients are Doug Hansen (John Hawkes), who had failed to reach the summit one year prior; John Beck (Josh Brolin), a wealthy doctor who used his climbs as an escape from his depression; Yasuko Namba (Naoko Mori), a woman attempting to reach the last of the world’s seven summits; and journalist Jon Krakauer (Michael Kelly). Over the course of their journey they team up with another company, Mountain Madness, led by Scott Fischer (Jake Gyllenhaal). Meanwhile back at base, Helen Wilton (Emily Watson) checks in via radio, and Hall’s pregnant wife Jan (Keira Knightley) anxiously awaits his return back home.
While Rob Hall is arguably the protagonist, Everest is an ensemble piece that shares multiple stories. Due to there being so many characters (more than what is mentioned above), they are not fully-developed, however the audience is given enough background to get a sense of who each person is, and their motivations for climbing the mountain. And of course the mountain is its own character, blah blah, wank wank. The cinematography and visual effects are impressive though. Being an ensemble piece, some viewers may be surprised by how small Jake Gyllenhaal’s role is, and it’s to his credit that he was willing to take on a smaller role, which he nails FYI. The performances are strong all round, with Emily Watson and Keira Knightley in particular donning impressive Kiwi accents.
It’s initially reassuring to see the safety precautions in place for the climbers, but then nature is a complete bitch, mistakes are made, and EVERYBODY DIES. Well, not everybody, but there is a lot of death that will make you leave this film with a heavy heart and an urge to drink. If anything, it might make you think twice about complaining about the weather, and on a deeper level, about how life can be so fleeting.