By Troy Riberio
Film: "Everest"; Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Jason Clarke, John Hawkes, Josh Brolin, Robin Wright, Keira Knightley, Vanessa Kirby, Clive Standen
Director: Baltasar Kormakur; Rating: ***1/2
"Everest" is a man versus nature conflict, based on a true story that occurred on May 10th 1996, on Everest, the world's highest peak.
The film is a magnificently mounted drama of survival that needs to be experienced in an IMAX theatre. It is a tale about dreams, ambition and accomplishments.
The narration begins from March 30, 1996, when Rob Hall (Jason Clarke) an entrepreneur whose company, Adventure Consultants, helped popularise mountaineering, bids farewell to his wife Caroline at a US airport.
And soon a motely group of climbers assemble in Nepal 40 days before the final act to train and acclimatise themselves before their final ascent.
The group includes; Guy Cotter (Sam Wothington), a guide and friend of Hall's, John Krakauer (Michael Kelly) a travel and outdoors feature writer, Beck Weathers (Josh Brolin), an enthusiast Texan pathologist, Yasuko Namba (Naoko Mori), an experienced Japanese mountaineer who had already scaled six of the world's seven highest peaks and Doug Hansen (John Hawkes), a mail man who narrowly failed in his previous attempts.
"It is the competition between every person (who is attempting to scale the peak) and the mountain and the last word always belongs to the mountain," states one of the guides. This gives us a sneak preview into what to expect.
The journey that starts on an upbeat note, soon becomes unnecessarily challenging thanks to the large numbers causing delays, lack of cumulative experience, not adhering to enough precautions and the questionable quality of some of the ropes and ladders in use. The film delivers on pre-built expectations with little room for surprise.
Since the film is narrated from Rob Hall's perspective, we see him much longer on screen. And Jason Clarke as Hall convincingly captures the anxiety of a businessman balancing excellent customer service and rigorous safety measures. Being responsible, conscientious and something of a control freak, he is the kind of person you'd put your trust in when heading to one of the most dangerous places on earth.
But it is when Scott Fisher (Jake Gyllenhaal) the other expert guide and Hall's competitor very bashfully says, "It is not the altitude, but it's the attitude that matters," that you realise would bring him in direct conflict with Hall. You expect some fireworks or clash of interests, but the duo soon sign a peace treaty. Yet, the underlying tension still prevails.
Among the adventurers' it is Josh Brolin and John Hawkes who get prominence over the rest. And at the base camp it is Emily Watson who plays Helen, the coordinator and "mother at the camp."
In a smaller but significant roles, we have Keira Knightley as Rob's pregnant wife and Robin Wright who plays Beck's wife. They add the emotional baggage to the already heavily laden film.
What keeps you hooked is cinematographer Salvatore Totino's brilliant camera work. With unique camera angles he magnificently captures the various locales like; The Lukla Airport, Namche Bazar, The Tengboche Monastery, The Climbers Memorial at Thok La, The Base camp and the entire route.
And what elevates the viewing experience is the haunting background score, the 3D effects and the sound design which captures the sound of nature at its best.
Overall, "Everest" is a frighteningly immersive film that transports you to the peak and leaves you stranded there, hours after you have left the auditorium.