Saturday, September 26, 2015

Everest [2015]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (A-II)  ChicagoTribune (2 1/2 Stars) (2 1/2 Stars)  AVClub (B)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. McCarthy) review
ChicagoTribune (M. Phillips) review (G. Kenny) review
AVClub (K. Rife) review

Everest [2015] (directed by Baltasar Kormákur screenplay by William Nicholson and Simon Beaufoy) plays like a classic Hollywood blockbuster "now in 3D" (could it be any other way today?) Disaster [TM] film.  'Cept, UNLIKE most other such "disaster films," this one recalls _actual events_ that of the 1996 Mount Everest Disaster whose circumstances leading-up to the tragedy, and then of the tragedy itself, really did play-out like a Hollywood disaster film. 

I remember the story, reading about it with honestly some jaw-dropped horror in the Int'l Herald Tribune (then jointly owned by the NYT / Wash Post) in my last year at the Seminary in Rome (My religious order, the Servites, run the Marianum in Rome).  Two NYT articles from the time, one originally from the AP, reporting on the disaster can be found here [1] [2].

Basically, what was happening and then had happened was that (1) climbing Mount Everest was becoming for the first time a(n admittedly still "extreme") tourism business, and (2) as many as thirty such "adventure tourists," led by some still very professional mountaineering guides from several professional outfitting firms based in New Zealand (Adventure Consultants), the United States (Mountain Madness) and elsewhere, found themselves caught in a sudden storm still high-up on the slopes/ridges of Mount Everest in the late afternoon as they were _coming down_ (after having reached the summit) to their forward-most camp. 

The storm hit the climbers (of varying experience / capability) at exactly their most vulnerable time.  Most were exhilarated (from having reached "the top of the world") but were already tired from the climb / weakened by the conditions and _some_ were already experiencing the disorienting effects of high altitude (snow blindness and the scarcity of oxygen).  In better circumstances, they would have just slogged it down _more or less safely_ as best / as carefully as they could.  But now they were dealing with a storm -- high winds, driving snow/ice and terrible visibility -- and with companions who were not necessarily in the best of shape and who didn't necessarily know what they were doing. 

The tragic result ... _became_ predictable (in hindsight / after-the-fact) and really did fit into a classic scenario of a Hollywood disaster movie: well-meaning professionals being lulled by "previous successes" into a sense of complacency finding themselves dealing with (and responsible for), again, basically good if naive "tourists" and certainly _amateurs_ who proved to be _way outside their element_ in the face of the storm.

This film is available in various formats -- 2D, 3D, IMax.  I saw it in 2D (the cheapest format), but I would say that probably the 3D / IMax versions would have been spectacular (and well worth the extra money if you have it). 

The performances in the film were also quite good -- Jason Clarke (as Rob Hall [wikip] [IMDb]) who led the New Zealand based (Adventure Consultants) group; Keira Knightly (as Jan Arnold [IMDb], Rob Hall's then pregnant wife back in New Zealand); Jake Gyllenhaal (as Scott Fischer [wikip] [IMDb] who led the U.S./Seattle-based (Mountain Madness) group); Josh Brolin (as Texas family man / medical doctor and yet also "adventure tourist" Beck Weathers [wikip] [IMDb]); John Hawkes (as Doug Hansen [IMDb] a three time Mount Everest "loser" (never quite made it to the summit) who Rob Hall of Adventure Consultants did feel sorry for, in civilian life he was a small-town mailman / school teacher from the U.S.) and Naoko Mori (as Yasoko Namba [wikip] [IMDb], a middle-aged Japanese woman who had already climbed six of the seven summits on the seven continents of the world, Everest being the one that was "still missing" for her of the fabled seven). 

Among these people are certainly some wonderful / poignant stories which (without revealing here who lives / dies) turn-out to be almost crushingly sad.

So this is a film that deserved to be made and then to be made in "Hollywood Blockbuster" almost Titanic [1997] fashion.  For it has the mix of sincerity / naivete, arrogance / folly out of which most compelling and shatteringly sad tragedies are made. 

So very good job folks, very, very good job.  But "bring a hankie" or two ...

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1 comment:

  1. I applaud Working Title for breaking new ground and not sticking to the 'Into Thin Air' version of the 1996 Everest tragedy, which is maybe why this book is not in this film's Credits, something that has not gone unnoticed by some professional reviewers.

    Working Title/the Director referred to Jon Krakauer as 'a writer who just happened to be on the mountain at the time'. To learn more about what actually caused this seminal event you will need to read 'A Day to Die For' and 'After the Wind'. Well done Working Title and Baltasar Kormakur for daring to break the mold!