What kind of self-obsessed insanity induces people to forsake their loved ones and suffer the most extreme physical torture, just for bragging rights about climbing the world’s highest mountain? When that’s the foremost impression you get from a film, you know there’s something wrong with Simon Beaufoy’s and William Nicholson’s script, as well as Baltasar Kormákur’s directing.
Not that Salvatore Totino’s brilliant cinematography isn’t breathtaking. The vistas, the camps, the Katmandu shots and the rugged mountainous landscape will stun you, especially if you see the film in gorgeous, harrowing 3-D.
And not that the acting isn’t superb, although the myriad big names with small roles make it hard for us to truly become involved with any of them. When you think about it, there are so many shots of the characters staggering around on the mountain, fully covered in extreme weather climbing garb, they could have been anybody. Yet even with these mitigating factors, you still see strong performances from Jake Gyllenhaal, John Hawkes, Josh Brolin and Jason Clarke, whom you might remember from Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, The Great Gatsby or Zero Dark 30. Other big name actors, such as Keira Knightly and Robin Wright as wives of climbers, and Michael Kelly (as Jon Krakauer), Emily Watson and Sam Worthington, are simply wasted. Just there, perhaps, to add gravitas to the film or to prove that they can do the proper accents.
Sure, it’s a dramatic “Man against the mountain” saga, made all the more compelling by the fact that it’s based on a true story. And sure, it’s intense — heart poundingly intense. I will say that the suspense almost had me hyperventilating, as it had been years since I read Krakauer’s book, which documents the same ill-fated expedition.
More than anything, however, I was just plain disgusted by these men and women who put their lives and their family’s well-being on the line just to reach the summit. It’s not like they’re risking their lives to save someone else’s, as do those in the military and law enforcement, those giving aid to others after a disaster, or those attempting to stop an epidemic. To me this shows that climbing Everest is not inspiring, it’s insane. Ask the guy who lost his nose and his hands to frostbite, or the mothers who lost their husbands and the fathers of their children, if the mad obsession was worth the risk.
At one point in the film, Krakauer asks the climbers why they’re willing to go to such extreme measures and spend such exorbitant amounts of money to reach the top. It’s not lost on him or the audience that no one can come up with a good reason. My husband says it’s a guy thing. That may well be, but if he ever tries to climb Everest, that’s it!
2 Hours 1 Minute
Get times and tickets at Fandango.com.
EVEREST Review — Over the Top Insanity