Strong cast, writers, director makeEverest worth climb 

click to enlarge Rob Hall (JASON CLARKE) leads the expedition in “Everest”.  Inspired by the incredible events surrounding an attempt to reach the summit of the world’s highest mountain, “Everest” documents the awe-inspiring journey of two different expeditions challenged beyond their limits by one of the fiercest snowstorms ever encountered by mankind. - PHOTO CREDIT: UNIVERSAL PICTURES
  • Photo Credit: Universal Pictures
  • Rob Hall (JASON CLARKE) leads the expedition in “Everest”. Inspired by the incredible events surrounding an attempt to reach the summit of the world’s highest mountain, “Everest” documents the awe-inspiring journey of two different expeditions challenged beyond their limits by one of the fiercest snowstorms ever encountered by mankind.

Shot partially on location in Nepal, Everest director Balthasar Kormákur (2 Guns, Contraband) quickly asserts that the movie’s antihero is not simply a mountain to be climbed.

It is a universe filled with as much breathtaking scenery as dangers of the elements, body and mind, where the threat of death lingers in its icy air.

When Rob Hall, brilliantly portrayed by Jason Clarke (Zero Dark Thirty), the expedition’s fearless leader tells his team, “Human beings simply aren’t built to function at the cruising altitude of a 747,” you know you are embarking on a cliffhanger.

Even cinema based on great stories has fallen flat due to poor writing, but this is not the case with Everest.

Through writers William Nicholsan (Gladiator) and Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire), Kormákur has as intelligent a guide in which to direct his film, as the characters have in a guide for their ascent up Earth’s highest mountain.

In addition to its writing and direction, a movie is defined by the depth of its antagonist. In most cases, it is a person, creature or animal. However, it is hard to find as imposing a character as Mount Everest.

That it required 20 days to prepare an experienced team of climbers speaks to the danger involved in the trek. Included in its treachery is an incredible arsenal of blistering winds, subzero temperatures, glacial caverns and intermittent avalanches. Include the largest ice storm to hit the mountain in its history, and you have the perfect setting for a hair-raising, sky-high thriller.

As man-versus-nature survival films go, Everest is formulaic in that it starts with competitive climbers. Josh Brolin portrays Beck, the ever-present, high-minded Texan, as Jake Gyllenhaal plays Scott, the slightly egocentric opposing expedition leader. Completing the formula is Jason Clarke as protagonist Rob and Keira Knightley as his wife Jan.

However, the formula is crafted and executed so impeccably in this film that, by its end, the viewer feels both triumph and remorse as its characters embark and complete, for some, the journey to end all journeys.

Supported by a cast of well-known actors such as Sam Worthington (Avatar), Robin Wright (House of Cards), Emily Watson (Red Dragon), Everest suffers only one major flaw: It’s seemingly untimely release.

It deserves the 3-D IMAX treatment it was given. The storyline also surrounds what happened on May 10, 1996, which has given audiences the time to reflect on and celebrate this event as it should have been done.

Had it been released in the early spring or in May, it could have been a movie that stood apart from the typical capes and cartoons of traditional “summer blockbusters.”

However, being distributed in early fall, it will not receive the fanfare it deserves.

Print headline: Storytelling pinnacle, Everest is breathtaking in 3-D IMAX.

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James Helton

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