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Movie Night – 'Everest' fails to reach height depicting what actually occurred (Feb. 24, 2016 issue)

The year 1996 was the deadliest year in the history of mountain climbing on Mount Everest prior to an avalanche in 2014. “Everest” focuses on two expedition groups as they climb toward the highest point on the planet. The movie is based on the true story of the men and women who risked everything to achieve their dream.
Rob Hall (Jason Clarke) is a New Zealander and a veteran of expeditions to the summit of Mount Everest. He started a company called Adventure Consultants which would, for an exorbitant fee, provide expert guiding services with the goal of reaching the summit of Mount Everest. Rob does things the right way and he insists that all of his guides and customers avoid any unnecessary risks.
In March of 1996 Rob’s climbing group included mailman Doug Hansen (John Hawkes), experienced climber Beck Weathers (Josh Brolin), Yasuko Namba (Naoko Mori), a diminutive, middle-aged woman who had already climbed the highest peaks on all other continents, and Jon Krakauer (Michael Kelly), a writer for Outside Magazine who would later write “Into Thin Air,” the seminal account of the deadly expedition.
Scott Fischer (Jake Gyllenhaal) takes a somewhat different approach from Rob. While Scott is also an experienced climber and owns his own expedition business known as Mountain Madness, Scott is a free spirit. With long hair and a long beard it wasn’t unusual to see him at base camp with his shirt off getting a tan. Yet Scott recognizes a good plan when he hears it and teams up with Rob for the final push to the summit due to overcrowding on the mountain.
As the day of the final trek to the summit approaches everything is going according to schedule. But the mountain had other ideas. Reaching the summit wasn’t the hard part, making it back down alive was the real challenge.
The best thing about the movie is the setting. The views of Mount Everest and the surrounding Himalayas are spectacular. At the same time, a decision to climb the mountain seems insane. Yet there are men and women who risk everything to reach the top. Determination is their defining trait.
The main problem with “Everest” is that there is no real storytelling arc in the film. The beginning shows how the different characters come to be at Everest base camp at the same time. The middle is basically the ramp up to the push to the summit. And the climax of the movie is the problems that occur at the top of the world. But there’s no all-encompassing story to bring it all together into a coherent theme or idea.
Everything goes great, until it doesn’t. All of a sudden bad things start happening without any explanation for the change. It makes the movie a little difficult to follow at times, especially given the fact that all of the main characters have their faces completely covered during the most intense moments and the dialogue is hard to understand.
“Everest” has a star-studded cast. Well-known names include Jason Clarke, Jake Gyllenhaal, Josh Brolin, and Sam Worthington. Keira Knightly, Robin Wright, and Emily Watson even have small roles. The actors do fine. If that doesn’t sound like a ringing endorsement, that’s because it’s not. There are no outstanding performances, and most are utterly forgettable.
The events depicted in “Everest” are tragic and heartbreaking, but the movie doesn’t do justice to what actually occurred. If you are interested in the events of that fateful expedition, I suggest reading “Into Thin Air” and avoiding “Everest.”
Grade: B-
Rated PG-13 for intense peril and disturbing images.