Movie Reviews & Interviews from Washington

‘Everest’ Review: Starring Jason Clarke, Jake Gyllenhaal & Josh Brolin

In March 1996, a group of climbers, led by expert mountain guide Rob Hall (Jason Clarke), began their 40-day journey to climb to the top of Mt. Everest in Nepal. This is Rob’s fifth Everest summit, while the other experienced climbers include Doug Hansen, a man who is working three jobs to get by; Jon Krakauer (Michael Kelly), a journalist on an assignment for “Outside” magazine; Yasuko Namba (Naoko Mori), a woman who had already climbed six of the seven major summits; Beck Weathers (Josh Brolin), a family man who has a strong passion for climbing and wants to get away from everyday life.

Rob’s summit team includes his camp coordinator Helen Wilton (Emily Watson), Dr. Caroline Mackenzie (Elizabeth Debicki) and another climber leader Guy Cotter (Sam Worthington). But this year Rob has decided to partner up with Scott Fischer (Jake Gyllenhaal), a lead climber from another organization. Their styles are different, but Rob believes if they are looking out for each other’s teams then the climb and descent will be safer. Rob and his team are ready and fully prepared for the climb itself, but upon reaching the Hillary Step, the very top of the mountain, they discover that no fixed rope line has been placed and the climb to the top gets delayed. Because of the delay, their descent down the mountain becomes harder than ever when a major snowstorm hits.

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Icelandic director Baltasar Kormakur (2013’s 2 Guns) and cinematographer Salvatore Totino do a beautiful job on showing the gorgeous snowy mountain landscapes, capturing the atmosphere of the mountains in Nepal and the culture of the Nepalese. Though parts of the film were shot in Nepal, the film was also shot in the Otzal Alps of Italy and in the director’s home country of Iceland. Since the film is based on a true story, we know as an audience what is going to happen in the end, so as a director it makes it harder to create the suspense and the surprise of the story itself. There are a few scenes that play into the hardships of making it to the top of Mt. Everest, but there needed to be more anxiety and uncertainty in the first half. Even near the end, the fluidity begins to fall apart and it’s not as meaningful or frankly as sad as it should be.

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Jason Clarke is excellent as Rob Hall. He’s strong yet tender hearted and shows a great devotion to his climbers and especially to his wife Jan, in a small but incredible performance by Kiera Knightley. The phone conversations between the two actors are some of the best in the film and really pay tribute to who Rob Hall was as a person. The whole cast excels in their roles and there is one particularly memorable scene when the climbers are at camp and they discuss why they climb and what it really means to them. A conversation that I would imagine would ring true for mountain climbers and for others to understand why they take on such dangerous climbs.

Everest is magnificent in its landscapes and performances by its committed cast, but the narrative and fluidity of the story seemed to go down the slippery slope in the last half of the film.

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