Everest is not the film it pretends to be. The trailer promises an action driven thriller, centring on being stranded at the top of the world’s tallest mountain during an unexpected storm, but the reality of the film is a more realistic re-telling of the 1996 Everest expedition, on which the film is based.
The first half trudges along in a similar fashion to its protagonists. It dedicates time to accurate depictions of the real people behind the tragedy, filling us in on their little quirks and background stories, and it’s hard to remember what the majority of the film even entails. Mostly we watch the climber’s talk about reaching the top of the mountain, battling a portion each day, before they again talk about reaching the top. An incredible experience to endure, but hardly action-packed for casual cinema go-ers. In general it feels more like a point by point re-enactment of the expedition, as opposed to the promised Hollywood blockbuster.
Yet, in a sense, that’s the film’s merit. Surprisingly for Hollywood, it strays away from sensationalism and instead aims for a genuine account of the disaster. And that is where it flourishes. While there are a few heart-stopping moments, it’s the more moving scenes that grip you, and although I’m sure there were a few disappointed action-lovers, for the most part the film delivers.
That is, in no small part, due to the acting. For a star-studded cast, it manages not to feel too claustrophobic, with Jason Clarke, Jake Gyllenhaal and Josh Brolin delivering moving performances while stranded in the blizzard. However, they strike gold with the supporting roles, as Keira Knightly delves deep into your emotions as Jan Arnold, Rob Hall’s pregnant wife who waits at home for her husband’s safe return. Emily Watson, too, steals the few scenes she’s in as the base camp manager attempting to co-ordinate the mission to get her team back down.
Although there are less action-filled sequences than expected, it is still a visual masterpiece (something I anticipated when being made to wear, what feels like sunglasses, at the cinema) and while most of the film does take you through the day to day experience of climbing up the mountain, the authenticity of the first half only adds to your shock at the film’s final moments.
I went to the cinema expecting 121 minutes of seat grabbing action, quickly to be forgotten, but I instead got a touching portrayal of those willing to risk their lives for a once in a lifetime journey. I ended up with tear stained 3D glasses – yes, I cried – and a conclusion that stuck in my mind long after leaving the cinema.
While the advertisements promised a thrilling blockbuster, the film instead delivers a heartfelt dedication to the individuals affected by the disaster. A beautiful movie, although I’d save your seat-grabbing for a more action packed experience.