Directed by Baltasar Kormakur
2 hours 1 minute
We begin with a bit of a back story on some of the climbers and their wives and families before the cameras take us to the mountain. There, on May 10, 1996, two expeditions begin the final ascent to the summit of Everest, the highest point on the planet. With little warning they are assaulted with an incredibly fierce blizzard that produces the worst disaster in mountain-climbing history.
You know without my saying that this is a film chiefly about photography and special and visual effects and on those levels, this is an outstanding film. There are some genuinely frightening shots which produced audible gasps in my matinee audience. With no attempt to degrade it, let's add that acting and writing take a definite back seat.
The story focuses mainly on Rob Hall (Clarke), the team leader of one of the groups but included are mini-stories on all of the others on the mountain that day. Much of the action takes place in the base camps where we are schooled as an audience in the basics of mountain-climbing.
One of the saddest scenes I have seen in quite some time occurred between a climber barely able to function and his pregnant wife back home. Best to have a tissue handy for this one.
I suspect there will be those who would rate this much higher than I have and they perhaps will not have experienced the drag that I felt. There were too many repeats of the same things, especially long distance shots of the climb which created some boredom for me. Additionally, far too many times something was happening to one of the characters and I had no idea who it was because they were so bundled up. That is understandable for the climbers but for audience members, it kept us in the dark and that's not a good thing. Sometimes the color of a jacket helped identify who it was, but not always.
Years ago I read Jon Krakauer's novel Into Thin Air which detailed this expedition of which he was a part. Michael Kelly plays him in the film. Both the book and this film gave rise to the same thought for me: why do people do this? It seems insane to me. Looking for an adrenaline rush? Drive through the greater Chicago area on Interstate 94 and you may survive. But climb to the highest point in the world... risk snow blindness, losing fingers, a nose, limited breathing, falling, a life? For what? A kick? Maybe I could handle this for bachelors (and bachelorettes) but those with families makes this stunt seem irresponsible to me. I just don't get it.
|Members of the actual team|
Fair warning... you Jake Gyllenhaal fans may be disappointed with his limited screen time. He is not the star of the piece.
I have never heard of the Icelandic director, Kormakur, but must say that helming a picture like this would have been a formidable task.
Filming did take place in Nepal but also Italy.
Cary Grant's 40s Films