Directed by Icelander Baltasar Kormákur, Everest is the account of the 1996 disaster on the world’s highest mountain. Based on Jon Krakauer’s book “Into Thin Air” the film is a faithful interpretation, thankfully never straying into either Cliffhanger or Vertical Limit territory.
First up I must say that I’ve read the book twice, so I was very familiar with the story, it also meant that I was nervous about how it would be translated to the screen. I needn’t have worried, the events aren’t sensationalised and if the emotional stakes are raised by concentrating a little more on Rob Hall’s wife (Keira Knightly) back home, it is played in such a way that it doesn’t intrude on the drama on the mountain.
If anything the events are perhaps under-dramatised. The incident as described in the book is such a catalogue of errors that it may have almost seemed far-fetched in a movie. I’m fairly sure (not a spoiler because it didn’t happen in the film) that someone walks right through camp one, right off the edge of a cliff the other side of the camp; simply because the weather was so atrocious, as well as presumably suffering from pneumonia and hypoxia. I feel that details like this mean that the audience wouldn’t have bought it at all.
I’m not familiar with any of Baltasar Kormákur’s other films, but he does a generally excellent job here. There’s one lovely moment I remember; the morning of the final push to the summit when Rob Hall (one of the lead guides; played by Jason Clarke) opens a tent and the POV camera from inside emerges and sweeps round the amazing starry mountain view before circling the characters as they discuss the climb. Other than that, the film was kept at a good pace, ramping up the tension when needed; but crucially not confusing the viewer with who was who or where they were on the mountain. And to be fair, any director that can get Sam Worthington to emote has got to be something special!
Apart from Sam Worthington, Jake Gyllenhaal, Josh Brolin, Emily Watson and Keira Knightley; the cast were mostly unknown to me. Though apparently I’ve seen Michael Kelly (who plays Jon Krakauer) in all the films he’s “known for” in IMDb. Everyone is fantastic though. Apart from Keira, I didn’t think about the “named” actors at all (specifically Jake and Josh); to me they were their character, and I didn’t even recognise Sam until near the end, he confused me so much by actually acting.
The photography is beautiful with various sweeping shots of the approach, the mountain and the climbers – looking insignificant on the slopes. Even the tent interiors and the horrific weather conditions were all lit really well. For a guy who starting photographing music videos, it all looks nae bad.
To be honest, I don’t really remember the music, so I can only assume that it was understated but at the same time helped to enhance the tension. Other than that I thought everything was really good. The cast really nailed it, direction was solid with a smattering of invention, and the whole thing looked lovely. But, you know, that’s just, like, my opinion man.