Synopsis: Mountaineers are slammed by a devastating storm on Mount Everest.
Brace yourself for Everest. Even on a good day, mountaineers die on the world’s tallest mountain and in Everest, a storm’s a comin’. Everest joins the 21st century trend of movies made for theaters: visual spectacle on a grand scale. As soon as you see Mount Everest in the film, your brain’s primordial senses will alert you that the terrifying mountain wants to be left alone.
Everest straddles Nepal and China and is poetically called Mother of the Universe in Tibet and somewhat more prosaically, Forehead of the Sky in Nepal. It juts over 29,000 feet into the sky, roughly the cruising altitude of a jumbo jet. Devoid of life, the last 10,000 feet cannot support any animals or vegetation. People should listen to the testimonials of neighboring animals as to the deadly conditions up the mountain, which according to legend go something like this…
Yak: I am a yak, sure-footed and covered with insulating fat and fur. It would be folly to attempt the summit. Especially for the hairless, small-lunged humans. In fact, there are not even lichens to eat up there.
Snow Leopard: I agree with Yak. Although I could eat the humans who attempt to summit, I would be too short of breath to really enjoy the experience. Plus, I do not own a pair of goggles to protect me from snow blindness. The hubris of humans sickens me.
Yes, the animals wisely respect the nearly holy mountain’s wishes to be left unmolested. The film frightens us with stunning footage of Everest’s snow and ice-covered rock. It virtually shouts: Abandon hope, all ye who bother me. But people line up to trek upwards, risking death by falling, freezing or lack of oxygen. So why do it? Supposedly expeditionist George Mallory answered, “Because it’s there.” After aggravating the mountain with multiple attempts to summit, he died there. The first climbers to summit were Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary in 1953 and teasers of the grim reaper continue in their quest to repeat the achievement.
Everest spectacularly catalogs the travails of a group of climbers in 1996. Two groups are led by experienced mountaineers, New Zealander Rob Hall (Jason Clark) and American Scott Fischer (Jake Gyllenhaal). They are both quite effective in displaying the grit and pathos of the trailblazers. Before things get dangerous, there is a lovely moment at a base camp where buff Jake G. sunbathes shirtless at a low altitude, manifesting his glorious face, furred chest and hair the perfect length for a man-bun. But soon Jake puts his shirt back on and the groups plan for their ascent while the sherpas lay the very dangerous groundwork. I could sense the mountain frowning and glaring at the climbers but they won’t be dissuaded.
Both group leaders are concerned over the time-consuming “traffic jams” of prospective summiters and feel the pressure to get their charges to the top. All of the crowds and commotion clearly rile the mountain and a brutal storm descends to ravage the climbers. Action, suspense and heroics ensue as every person in the groups struggles for survival.
Maybe after seeing what our planet’s tallest mountain can dish up mountaineers will keep their distance? Sorry, Everest, they’re a determined lot. But I for one will honor its tectonic birthright to magnificent solitude and heed its many lethal messages to stay away or else…
Cut to the Chase: Thrilling visuals & sensitive treatment of the climbers’ story.
Comedy Highlight: How Jake G. managed a shirtless scene in the frozen Himalayas. Fun fact: He hiked Italy’s Dolomite Mountains to prepare for the role.