September 17, 2015
This film tells the true story of a group of men who dared to climb to the peak, braving a harsh environment physiologically-incompatible with human life. Bob Cotter ran Adventures Consultants, a service to guide climbers willing to shell out $75,000 up to the Everest summit. His support staff includes base camp manager Helen Wilton, medic Dr. Caroline Mackenzie, along with a number of expert climbers and native sherpas for guides.
For the fateful climb on May 10, 1976, we follow expedition group leader Rob Hall and his group composed of doctor Beck Weathers, mailman Doug Hansen, journalist Jon Krakauer (who eventually wrote the book about this climb), female Japanese veteran climber Yasuko Namba and others. Before their big climb on May 10, they first had a month-long training camp on the lower levels of the mountain in order to acclimatize their bodies to the inhospitable conditions. While the group was up the mountain though, a deadly blizzard descends upon the mountain, placing all the men on the mountain in extreme peril.
Jason Clarke radiated a lot of warmth as compassionate New Zealander expedition group leader Rob Hall. His conversations with his pregnant wife Jan (played by Keira Knightley in a brief yet remarkable supporting performance) were touching and heartbreaking.
Josh Brolin was loud and arrogant as the wealthy Texan climber Beck. John Hawkes was perfectly self-effacing as Doug, a poor working man whose climb was partially sponsored by school children. Despite his prominent billing, Jake Gyllenhaal plays only a small role as an unconventional surfer-type rival guide. As in his previous films, Sam Worthington was not really very memorable as Bob Cotter. Emily Watson was motherly as the distressed manager Helen.
I am partial to mountain adventures more than the beach. Based on my limited number of hikes up mountains like Pinatubo or Diamondhead, reaching the peak gives such a victorious feeling of exhilaration and accomplishment. Knowing my limitations as a climber, I know that climbing even a segment of Everest is but an impossible pipe dream.
That is why I liked this movie a lot. With its spectacular cinematography, this film brought me up to the summit of Everest in such a realistic, involving way. The places on the majestic mountain which I never would have even dreamed of seeing, like the Base Camp (17,000 ft), the Balcony (27,390 ft) or the Hillary Step (28,740 ft), were right there in front of my eyes!
We see everything along their snowy way -- those elegant yaks, those serene Buddhist monks, all the way up to the legendary peak with the little flags summiteers have planted their as a sign of their successful conquest. We will also see the various faces of the human spirit when challenged by the elements -- from triumph, valor and brotherhood to despair, defeat and resignation.
Thankfully, the very real dangers of the climb, like the wide crevasses to be crossed on rickety ladders, the icy wind burning the skin off your face, the nasty frostbite that could cost you to lose frozen body parts, or the avalanches that can rumble down on you at anytime, are to be experienced from the safety of your theater seats.
The parts of the film when the characters were just making their way up the mountain and training for the big climb may be slow for certain audience members. You will learn a lot about the medical aspect of climbing up to an oxygen-poor altitude such as that of Everest. For me, I vicariously immersed myself in that literally breathtaking climbing experience which for certain I will never have myself.
Man, in his quest to prove that he the master of this world, has this unquenchable desire to conquer the earth's highest peak -- Mt. Everest. However in climbing Everest, the last word, as the film tells us, always belonged to the mountain. 8/10.