This was not a happy movie. But then, director Baltasar Kormákur wasn’t trying to produce an uplifting tale of heroes overcoming a terrible situation. He “…wanted to be true and show the mistakes and failures that happened on the mountain.” Over 250 people have died climbing Mount Everest since it was first summited in 1953 by Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, and the 1996 tragedy that Everest was based on is still considered one of the most horrific events to ever happen on the mountain—though just this year, an earthquake in early May caused an avalanche that killed 19 people at the Everest Base Camp, and before that an avalanche killed 16 sherpas in 2014.
The movie itself was hard to follow because of thunderous winds cutting off dialogue and snow masking which characters were in the scenes, but if you read any news article about the story, you probably know all of the spoilers. What was truly amazing about this movie was the emotion it drew from viewers. Even though you couldn’t tell exactly what was happening, you knew it wasn’t good, and when they took you back to Base Camp to see the utter fear in Hellen Wilton (Emily Watson), Caroline Mackenzie (Elizabeth Debicki), and Guy Cotter’s (Sam Worthington) eyes, you couldn’t help but feel your own eyes burn with tears. Every actor did a tremendous job making you believe they were on the verge of death, but Jason Clarke really sold the stoic dedication of mountain guide Bob Hall.
Environmentally speaking, we are literally climbing Mount Everest to death—both our own, and the mountain’s. Despite the danger, 359 climbers had gathered at the base of Everest this year before the earthquake, and in 2012, 500 people reached the summit. The majority of these people are not skilled enough to be going up the world’s tallest mountain. They pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to outfitters such as Adventure Consultants and Mountain Madness–the two groups who suffered the most during the 1996 storm, both of which are still conducting Everest expeditions, though Mountain Madness has pulled back in recent years. These commercial climbers litter the mountain with trash, human excrement, and their frozen bodies. Yes, most of the 250-plus people who have died on Mount Everest remain there, their bodies located just off the trails but irretrievable due to the lack of oxygen near the summit.
Everest is a very frustrating movie. It’s a heartbreaking story that everyone should know about, but Kormákur’s decision to shoot the film in IMAX 3D makes it a very expensive movie to go see (and potentially sickening if you don’t handle 3D well). There are plenty of other movies, news articles, and books about the events during those fateful days that are easier to see and understand, though you’d miss out hearing dialogue that quotes the actual recordings saved from the tragedy. Still, as half the time you can’t hear this dialogue, I would suggest saving yourself a few bucks and waiting until the movie comes to DVD. Definitely watch it on a big screen, though.
1/10 for easy criers
1/10 for heartless bitches
6/10 for everyone else
Featured photo courtesy of Wonders in Asia.