Review: ‘Everest’ Is Two Hours Of White Knuckling Tension

Before sitting down to watch “Everest”, audience members should do some basic muscle stretching. By the time the credits roll, every nerve should be frayed and theater goers will have to peel themselves from their seats.

“Everest” is a beautifully rendered, intense look at the events surrounding a 1996 expedition to reach the top of Mt. Everest. The cast is impressive, but the star of this real life thriller is the punishing capability of nature.

The first hour of “Everest” introduces us to the lives of a various cast of characters, all with different reasons for mounting Everest. These mountaineers are led by Rob Hall (Jason Clarke), whose pregnant wife, Jan (Keira Knightley), waits for him to return safely to their home country of New Zealand. Among Rob’s group are Dallas doctor Beck Weathers (Josh Brolin), US Postal Service worker Doug Hansen (John Hawkes), and Outdoor Magazine writer Jon Krakauer (Michael Kelly).

While never getting too critical, “Everest” touches on the implied commercialization of reaching the peak of the highest point on Earth. Due to the hundreds of people making the same journey on the same day, Rob convinces Scott Fischer (Jake Gyllenhaal) to team up their respective groups in the best interests of safety.

Prior to the climb, “Everest” has an underlying feeling of dread. There isn’t much time spent on character depth, but just enough information is gleaned about these people to create an “And Then There Were None” vibe. There is no doubt that some of these people are not going to come down from the mountain alive and this only builds the tension leading up to the expedition.

Once a massive storm hits the mountain, “Everest” goes from tense to pure, unadulterated fear. Director Baltasar Kormákur manages to tastefully recreate the horrors that these actual people faced, while displaying the beauty of snow covered Everest. The tension is broken up with breathtaking, panoramic shots of the mountain that are equally calming and terrifying.

If not for the almost unbearable stress, “Everest” is gorgeous to watch. The cinematographer, Salvatore Totino, pulls off the almost impossible task of putting one of Earth’s most epic sights on screen. Naturally, the filming did not take place on Mt. Everest and was recreated on different mountains while adding green screen effects with seamless perfection.

“Everest” doesn’t have much plot, but other than having a basic background for each of the characters, it isn’t needed. This movie depends on audiences to care for these climbers simply because they are human beings facing impossible circumstances. If that isn’t enough for you to care about their well being, “Everest” may not be your cup of tea.

Many times, the use of 3D seems like unnecessary overkill. This is not the case with “Everest.” This feature only adds to the visual spectacle and virtually puts a viewer right on the mountainside.

In fact, “Everest” is potentially the best IMAX movie experience to date. The sound alone shakes an entire theater, only making the events onscreen that much more unbearable. If there is one near you, spend the extra money on that pricier IMAX theater ticket.

The only negative of “Everest” may seem like nitpicking, but there is a small amount of emotional manipulation. There are moments of dialogue, particularly in the first hour, that are a bit hamfisted by screenwriters William Nicholson and Simon Beaufoy. Anyone with Google can learn about which of these real people survive the trek, so any dialogue implying who will or will not make it rings a bit false.

It’s odd to recommend such a voyeuristic, traumatic movie, but “Everest” is truly a spectacle to behold. While you’re essentially volunteering to spend two hours with your entire body on full alert, “Everest” is so well crafted that it will be worth it.

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Chic

Chic has been writing movie reviews for years & is the most respected Dallas-Ft. Worth movie critic in his own mind. He's been an audience member to every band's favorite show ever & is an active Over-Tweeter.
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