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"EVEREST"
(2015) (Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin) (PG-13)


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QUICK TAKE:
Adventure: Rival mountain-climbing teams must come together on Everest when a severe snowstorm hits, imperiling multiple climbers.
PLOT:
In 1996, professional mountain-climber Rob Hall (JASON CLARKE) leaves behind his pregnant wife, Jan (KEIRA KNIGHTLEY), to mount an expedition to climb Mt. Everest. Regular citizens like mailman Doug Hansen (JOHN HAWKES), rich Texan Beck Weathers (JOSH BROLIN), and travel journalist and publisher Jon Krakauer (MICHAEL KELLY) pay him money to get them to the top. Rob is assisted by climber Andy "Harold" Harris (MARTIN HENDERSON) and base camp manager Helen Wilton (EMILY WATSON).

Once in Nepal, though, Jason and his staff are dismayed when they learn that a number of other teams are hoping for similar windows during which they can also climb to the top. Chief among them is Scott Fischer (JAKE GYLLENHAAL), who has a friendly rivalry with Rob and is dismayed that Krakauer is going to be shadowing Rob's team for a feature cover article and not his.

Once on the climb, all concerned find it to be a grueling mission with some quitting or turning back. Beck starts to have second thoughts and calls his wife, Peach (ROBIN WRIGHT) back in the States. Eventually, the rival teams run into a highly severe snowstorm that makes climbing back down Everest treacherous at best and possibly impossible for some. All of the climbers are put into mortal jeopardy, and it's up to Helen and climber Guy Cotter (SAM WORTHINGTON) -- who has been shepherding less accomplished climbers on the lower elevations, but ever-watchful -- to come up with a plan that will save as many of their lives as possible.

OUR TAKE: 6 out of 10
From the commercials and trailers, "Everest" seems like the absolute perfect movie to put in IMAX 3-D theaters. Look at the spectacle and majesty of the titular mountain. Marvel at the incredible shots of real high-altitude climbing and peril director Baltasar Kormakur was able to realize shooting at the real Everest and in the Italian Alps. Brace yourself for one of the most viscerally unnerving snowstorms ever realized on the big screen.

But this ain't your typical IMAX experience. The mountain climbers aren't chased by genetically modified dinosaurs. They don't run from Pac-Man or get rescued and then have to hang off the side of aircraft. This ain't a Michael Bay/Roland Emmerich joint. When people fall great distances in "Everest," they don't survive with the assistance of some cartoony "Matrix"/Marvel superheroes digital effects. They go splat somewhere in lower Nepal, and they're likely never found.

Mostly, though, when the big CGI beast of a storm hits, the characters just hide behind rocks, jump into makeshift tents, or stay put and wait for the Reaper. This is a pretty grim and harrowing movie that is based on real-life, tragic events in 1996 that some of you may or may not recall following on CNN. Jason Clarke stars as Rob, an expert climber who operates a business taking other climbers of varying degrees of skill up the world's tallest mountains. Everest is, of course, the one most want to challenge themselves on. It's also one of the most dangerous. Rob leaves his home and pregnant wife (Keira Knightley) early in the film, and the sense of dread is palpable. He hooks up with his team, which include Martin Henderson's fellow climber Harold and Emily Watson's base-camp manager Helen, and takes up a group including wealthy Texan Beck (Josh Brolin) and blue-collar divorcee Doug (John Hawkes). The former is suffering from a bout of depression and is hoping Everest will reinvigorate him. The latter is making his third and likely last attempt to make it to the top and plant a flag for the elementary school sponsoring his adventure.

When they get to Everest, though, they find that business is good for the other rival climbing companies, and it's all quite crowded. Everyone is trying to take advantage of an early May window to get from the ground to the top before bad weather makes it impossible. Rob is able to team with one of the competitors, Scott Fischer (Jake Gyllenhaal) in an attempt to work together and reach the top in an orderly fashion. When one of the most severe snowstorms in history takes a turn right for them, though, it's every man (and a handful of women) for themselves.

If you are unfamiliar with the real-life tragedy on which this is based, I won't spoil it for you as to who lives and who dies. I can tell you that this ain't an episode of "Star Trek" where the one or two dudes in the red Starfleet shirts who beam down to the planet behind Kirk, Spock, and McCoy are the ones who are obvious toast. If anything, most of the red shirts survive here. It's the name actors and their onscreen alter egos who should have gone skiing in Vail.

"Everest" is a solid, respectful film that takes great pains in not "Hollywood-ing" up what is a very sad story. Kormakur could very easily have thrown in more moments of icy peril in which people go sliding, careening, and body-surfing down that mountain or gotten into all sorts of elaborate peril that would have made for even better trailers and commercials, but that would have been a betrayal to what actually happened. Here, the climbers climb, some reach their goal, some don't, the storm hits, and most just hunker down and try to ride it out. The escapist movie nut in me kept waiting for the Tommy Lee Jones/Sam Gerard character to take charge down at base camp and coordinate and send up some crack rescue teams. I kept waiting for them to go summon the one crusty Quint-like Everest expert, sober him up, and have him climb up there and save those most at risk.

But that never happens. Sam Worthington comes close to that kind of guy. He's a climber who has stayed at the lower elevations with the less experienced climbers. And he was the golden-boy hero of "Avatar" and "Clash of the Titans." But Sam pretty much just stays down at camp, jawing into a CB radio, and giving four or five different variations of the "Well ... they're screwed!" face.

So, all in all, a good flick. A harrowing flick. And, ultimately, a fairly safe one to take the family to despite a PG-13 rating because it contains no profanity (if I was one of the climbers, I'd be swearing like Kinison), only a moderate amount of frostbite gore (it could've been a LOT worse), and it will convince your young 'uns to NEVER, EVER climb Everest! I give it a 6 out of 10. (T. Durgin)




Reviewed September 15, 2015 / Posted September 18, 2015


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