In 1996 , eight climbers got caught in a blizzard and died while attempting to climb Mt. Everest. They achieved their goal of reaching the summit, but in doing so lost their lives. The events of the 1996 Everest disaster were made famous by author and climber Jon Krakauer in his riveting book, Into Thin Air. Krakauers account of what happened on the mountain makes for a real page turner, so much so, that I read the entire book in one day.
This week, the movie Everest was released on DVD, Blu-ray, and digital download. I don’t know how I missed this one in the theater, but I was excited to see the events of the 1996 Everest disaster recounted on the silver screen. Starring Josh Brolin, Jake Gyllenhaal, Robin Wright, Sam Worthington, and Keira Knightley, this film packs some serious star power. In my opinion though, it was lead actor Jason Clarke who steals the show.
Clarke plays guide Rob Hall of Adventure consultants, and brought a life to this character that I didn’t quite get from Into Thin Air. The opening sequences of the movie start with Hall saying goodbye to his pregnant girlfriend (Keira Knightly) in a New Zealand airport. He then meets up in Kathmandu with the group of climbers who are paying him as a guide to lead them to the summit of Everest. His team consisted of Frank Fischbeck, Doug Hansen, Stuart Hutchison, Lou Kasischke, Jon Krakauer, Yasuko Namba, John Taske, and Beck Weathers. Beck is one of the more memorable characters in this movie, a strong willed Texan short on experience, but high on confidence. I was also drawn to the story of Yasuko Namba, a 47 year old Japanese woman who climbed the Seven Summits. Then of course there is Jon Krakauer, played by Michael Kelly. He was the only one in the group not paying to be there. He was a journalist on assignment for Outside Magazine.
After leaving Kathmandu, the crew heads to Everest Basecamp. From the moment the climbers begin to acclimatize, you get a sense of the dangers that lie around every corner for those aspiring to reach the summit of Everest. One of the more gripping scenes was when Beck (Josh Brolin) was hiking on a ladder over a crevasse. This is the scene depicted in the main title image above.
Climbing Mt. Everest is a real challenge, even though it’s been heavily commercialized. 1996 was the year these hand-holding guided companies really started to take off, a point made clear by character Rob Hall as he talked to American guide, Scott Fisher, of Mountain Madness. The debate as to what truly happened, who was at fault, and who could have been saved, will never be agreed upon by everyone, but this movie does a great job of presenting a cinematic retelling of the events while staying true to the story. From the moment the Adventure Consultants team reaches the summit of Everest and begins their fateful descent, you feel every twist and turn right along with the characters.
The cinematography for this movie is incredible. Director, Baltasar Kormákur, did a masterful job of meshing real life climbing sets with CGI and green screen sets for a fully immersive experience that makes the viewer feel as though they’re on the mountain. The attention to detail was incredible to see. All of the actors worked well as a cast, and you can tell they had a great time shooting. I would become an actor overnight if all gigs were like this one!
The one knock I have on this film is a personal one. I didn’t like how invisible the sherpas were. This is a problem all too common in the telling and retelling of westerners’ mountain adventures in the Himalayas. I understand this is a Hollywood production and there is only so much budget and screen time available, but I would have liked to see a little bit more of the sherpas story told in this movie.
Everest was a really good movie, and one I recommend for all hikers, trekkers, climbers, and mountaineers. It’s rare we get a great Hollywood production that focuses on the activities we love, and does so without any nonsense.
Have you seen Everest? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.
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