EVEREST – REVIEW: John Connor and Donnie Darko go up a mountain but Josh Brolin finds it is No Country for Old Men and the whole thing collapses on Michael Kelly like a House of Cards.
The problem with Everest is that the damned thing is so f*cking big. You can’t really see it. And if you see it from the sky as a way of really getting it all in, you’re automatically taking away from it, its key characteristic: which is that it is is higher than everything else. Baltasar Kormákur’s film does a solid job of telling the true story of the disastrous 1996 expedition which was told in Jon Krakauer’s book “Into Thin Air”. Jason Clarke plays Rob Hall, the leader of one of two commercial enterprises that takes its clients to the summit of Everest. Jake Gyllenhaal is his competitor and friend Scott Fischer who with Russian climber Anatoli Boukreev (Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson) is leading the other group. With so many at Base Camp there is a genuine worry that something might go wrong, but there are commercial pressures of getting their expectant clients Beck (Josh Brolin) and Doug (John Hawkes) up especially as it all takes place under the watchful eye of journalist Krakauer (Kelly).
The strength of the film is in a wonderful lead performance by Clarke who is quietly fashioning a series of brilliant character pieces amidst the more generic pay days. His Rob Hall is a gentle, solid, reassuring presence: his expertise and humanity, a tribute to the man. The rest of the cast don’t quite rise to the same level but they are all solid enough. Once the storm arrives and with it disaster, there is a sense of genuine loss – though in its attempt to not point the blame, confusion seeps into the narrative so that we are never quite clear what is going on. The CGI mountain and the real thing clash occasionally, and base camp is so obviously studio bound as to be a real distraction, but in general the mountain comes over as a worthy adversary and the drama is well done if not exactly the peak that its subject seems to demand.