Review: EVEREST (2015) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Review: EVEREST (2015)

EVEREST is a rousing, yet emotionally-penetrating disaster drama blessed with a solid ensemble cast and top-notch production values.

The true story of the ill-fated 1996 Mount Everest disaster, which took the life of eight climbers has been featured in the past. Among them is the 1997 made-for-TV movie Into Thin Air: Death On Everest and the 1998 IMAX documentary EVEREST. Following the recent 2015 Nepal earthquake and the Mount Kinabalu disaster, Baltasar Kormakur's EVEREST can be either seen as a bad timing or a timely release. But one thing for sure, I'm glad the movie respects the true-story aspect and doesn't dumb down into a typical effect-driven Hollywood disaster genre.


EVEREST follows a group of climbers led by Rob Hall (Jason Clarke), who is the head of the Adventure Consultants. Among the climbers that joined in the Mount Everest expedition are Texas pathologist Beck Weathers (Josh Brolin), mailman Doug Hansen (John Hawkes) who failed to summit the year before, Outside magazine journalist Jon Krakauer (Michael Kelly), and Yasuko (Naoko Mori) who has already scaled six summits on six continents. Apart from Rob's team, there are other competitors as well, notably on the carefree and heavy drinker Scott Fischer (Jake Gyllenhaal) who leads his team of Mountain Madness. Both groups are planning to scale the tallest mountain in the world at the same ascent date. At the beginning, things are going well as planned. But the aftermath of the final ascent gradually becomes tragic, as the bad weather loomed in and prevents the climbers from descending safely back to the base camp.


During the press screening, I got to watch the movie in the IMAX 3D presentation. The result is a spectacular cinematic experience that felt as epic as the Mount Everest itself. This is especially surprising, considering the movie is actually shot in 2D and then converted into 3D. Such kudos have to go to Salvatore Totino, whose crisp cinematography successfully captured the majestic sight of the Mount Everest. Also worthy of a mention is the seamless mix of practical sets (shot on location in the foothills of Everest and the Italian Alps) and special effects that made the overall mountain setting looks as authentic and vivid as possible.

But the biggest surprise of all is the Icelandic director Baltasar Kormakur. His previous two Hollywood efforts including CONTRABAND (2012) and to a certain extent, 2 GUNS (2013) were both forgettable movies. EVEREST is no doubt his biggest movie project to date. At first, I was sceptical seeing him here in the director's chair. After all, he never strikes me as an ideal director to handle such a movie on a bigger scale. Fortunately, he proves to be a competent director who knows how to blend big Hollywood disaster genre and emotionally-driven character drama. Prior to the mountain scene, he and screenwriters William Nicholson (GLADIATOR) and Simon Beaufoy (SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, 127 HOURS) does a good job setting up the first act in an economical manner.

EVEREST is also blessed with a strong ensemble cast. Of all, Jason Clarke's portrayal of Rob Hall is a standout and easily among the best performance to date in his acting career. The large supporting cast, including Josh Brolin, John Hawkes, Michael Kelly, Jake Gyllenhaal and among others, is equally impressive. Although this is pretty much a male-driven picture, the female actors are also given ample space to shine as well. Naoko Mori delivers a wonderful, yet determined performance as the lone female climber of the Mount Everest expedition. Emily Watson is superb as the Adventure Consultants team's caring base camp manager. The rest, including Elizabeth Debicki as the base camp doctor Caroline Mackenzie, Keira Knightley as Rob's pregnant wife Jan Arnold and Robin Wright as Beck's wife Peach, manages to make a satisfying impression in their otherwise thankless roles.


There is a brief, but edge-of-the-seat moment involving the Nepalese army pilot navigates a helicopter off the mountain, while transporting one injured survivor.


If there's a flaw in the movie, Kormakur and his screenwriters doesn't dig deeper when comes to individual character moments.


Despite the minor shortcoming, EVEREST still succeeds as a gripping true-story disaster drama in terms of large-scale spectacle and substantial human drama.

* This review is written courtesy from UIP Malaysia IMAX 3D press screening *

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