Jean-Paul’s Rating: 4/5 stars
Bottom Line: Slow start. Good finish. Some awe inspiring shots of Everest.
In 1996, a bunch of really stupid people paid an exorbitant amount of money to a handful of hot-shot experienced mountain climbing guides who made decisions that were detrimental to the safety of their clients and eight of them never returned, including three of the guides. This is their story. Dun-DUN.
When I first saw a preview for “Everest”, I thought that they were finally making Jon Krakauer’s wonderful book, “Into Thin Air”, into a movie. I was wrong. Well, kind of. You see, “Everest” does, indeed, tell the same story as the true-life account retold by Krakauer in his book, but the movie is not associated with Krakauer or his book despite the fact that Krakauer was actually on that fateful climb to the top of Everest and he is a character in the movie. This reeks of Hollywood shenanigans, but I suppose there’s no copyright on real life events.
As explained in the movie, you are quite literally dying on the final leg up to the top of Mt. Everest. Why would anyone want to put themselves through this? Because it’s there. But also, my god is Everest beautiful. I’m sure the beauty of the mountain is farthest from the minds of climbers as they’re suffering their way up the mountain, but its sheer magnificence must be at least part of the reason people with too much money flock to the top of Mt. Everest. This is one of those movies where the backdrop becomes one of the characters. Seeing “Everest” on the big screen is worth it just for the mountain.
A movie like this requires a lot of setup. There is a large cast of characters and it takes time to get to know them, but you need to know them in order for the final act to have any personal meaning at all. This makes the beginning a bit slow. It’s worth it, though. The payoff is big and it is interesting both how much preparation is made into getting the clients up the mountain and how much silly bravado is exhibited by many of the climbers.
Things don’t get really interesting until the climbers finally reach the summit. Then all hell breaks loose as what was a climbing movie with the mountain as a protagonist becomes a rescue movie with the mountain as an antagonist. It’s a combination of a bunch of really dumb decisions, horrible miscommunications, and bad luck that led to the results of that day. It is shot beautifully with no punches pulled. The most harrowing part of the movie comes from an absolutely insane helicopter rescue attempt that requires a special amount of stupid to even consider let alone try.
You want to see “Everest” in the theater mostly for the absolute beauty of the scenery. If you are going to wait until it hits homes, be sure to crash a friend’s house with a nice home-theater system to watch it. Either way, this is a movie well worth seeing.