“Gee, the lack of humility before nature that’s being displayed here, uh… staggers me.”
— Dr. Ian Malcolm, “Jurassic Park”
George Mallory’s famous quote “Because it’s there,” given as an answer to the question of why he wanted to climb Mount Everest, is recounted by characters in the movie “Everest” as they struggle to give an honest answer to the same question.
The lack of a compelling answer gets to the heart of the problem of the movie, which is as visually stunning as anything you could hope to see put on celluloid, but still manages to feel emotionally hollow. Of course, the irony of the fact Mallory went on to die on that very same mountain seems to be lost on everyone in this movie.
“Everest” is based on the true story of an ill-fated group of climbers led by good-natured New Zealander Rob Hall (Jason Clarke).
Set in 1996, this impossibly deadly mountain and metaphor for the greatest in human achievement has become an overcrowded destination for adventure seekers with lots of disposable income.
To their credit, they went and cast the heck out of this movie; with the likes of Jake Gyllenhaal and Sam Worthington playing fellow guides and Emily Watson as the matron of base camp. Josh Brolin plays the obnoxious Texan across from John Hawkes as the climber who is more heart than skill. Then you’ve got Keira Knightley and Robin Wright as the wives left at home who aren’t given much to do other than cry into a telephone.
The problem here is I really didn’t care who made it off the mountain alive. In all of your great tales of survival, people find themselves testing their mettle thanks to some unfortunate happenstance or some grand endeavor of nobility.
None of these people had to die on Everest. What would have made the movie much more interesting would have been if it were treated as an examination of man’s hubris, an attempt to poke nature in the eye and getting poked right back.
Instead, everyone gets the hero’s treatment which makes the movie ring hollow.
The redeeming factor here is the stunning shots of the mountain. Icelandic director Baltasar Kormakur (best known for helming Mark Wahlberg vehicles like “Contraband” and “2 Guns”) lets the camera lovingly drift over the snow-covered peaks. This film is being released early for IMAX and it certainly plays well on the extra-big screen.
But if you are hoping for more than impressive nature photography, “Everest” is a disappointment. You’re much better off keeping your feet planted firmly on the ground.
“Everest” is rated PG-13 for intense peril and disturbing images.