Everest. Scaling its heights gives one his source of eternal satisfaction (and boasting rights). But Mother Nature isn’t going to go easy on you, and is probably gonna to show you what’s hell day and night, so you better come ready.
That, the film shows successfully. That despite how stupid such an idea sounds on paper (death by landslide? Snowstorm? Lack of oxygen? Frail body conditions? Cold and Hypothermia?), but yet we see a large group of people still deciding to embark on such a journey anyways, led by Rob Hall (played by Jason Clarke here) and Scott Fischer (Jake Gyllenhaal), two expedition leaders. Yet, apart from these moments which the film happens to explain and the threats that these brave souls will face (which, at moments, are ‘duh’), it is really difficult to think of any other good moments I had sitting for this 121 minutes film, which was definitely not as great a ride as I had expected.
For a survival movie that focuses on teamwork, many are going in expecting at least one thing right- good character development. Well, yeah, there were moments where they definitely introduced tons of them, but their effectiveness I question. The supporting cast mainly gets relegated to the side, and forgotten as the film progresses. That’s really problematic since it makes their deaths all the more difficult to empathize with (along with their plight). How am I supposed to say ‘Oh no, <insert name> died, that’s sad’ when I’m going on for the most of the show like ‘Who’s <insert name>?’. Apart from the memorable group leaders (Rob and Scott), along with Beck Weathers (Josh Brolin), everyone else who embarked on the climb to the summit were mostly unmemorable, and yeah, every moment a character dies, you’re left with two possible thoughts- 1)’Who the hell is he? Let me take time to think about this’ while not being able to come up with anything and 2)’Wait, he/she died?’. That’s where the second problem comes into play- some deaths are just so un-iconic, or so inconspicuous, and I can’t really understand whether that’s just the director’s admission that, yeah, these characters were undercooked, and you won’t care much anyways, or whether it was unintentional. Deaths, in the film, are really common, but are mainly split-second insertions (that go by real quickly), or are mostly shown through overhead shots. That makes it sorta less soul-stirring. Blame it on the setting, resulting in them having to put on those winter-ery, high altitude equipment, attributing to lack of empathy due to difficulty in identification of characters, or blame it on the true story it was based on, which this film tries to follow whole-heartedly, but there were ways that this problem could have been worked with pre-climb, during the character development phase. I can’t deny that the film is a tad touching at times, especially over the phone calls between Rob and Jan (wife, played by Keira Knightley), but these moments come rare, with few scattered throughout the film.
The film’s pacing is really problematic, trudging along too slowly for the first half. It’s difficult to think the film has progressed in any way, due to its insignificant yet straightforward plot of ‘climbing Everest, then getting screwed by a blizzard on the way back’, though the first half is a huge bore. We get to know the characters better, but that doesn’t quite capitalize. Only when the second half comes does the real climb to the summit begins (after all the preparations they have made), but even that feels like it was intentionally dragged. An Everest expedition gone wrong definitely sounds like a good idea on film, but this film makes me have my reservations. Ultimately, this film could have been finished within 40 minutes, making the rest of the film seem redundant.
Tension is, agreeably, felt throughout, but once again it doesn’t apply for all instances. There’s a strong stench of death and doom plaguing the film from start, with some dialogue serving as pre-shadowing, and when the blizzard finally comes, you definitely feel bad for certain characters (the only character I probably cared enough for would be Brolin’s character, but that’s by far the only one). And sadly, no matter how much the doctors back at base try, they definitely aren’t contributing to this attempt at building the sense of dread throughout, making me wonder why the film couldn’t just scrap those scenes (apart from the phone calls between Rob and his wife, those are essential, as they are one of the few good parts of the film).
Apart from the three main cast (Clarke, Gyllenhaal, Brolin), alongside a few other supporting characters (Knightley, Emily Watson, Debicki), acting was sub-par at best. Not trying to point out names here, but Sam Worthington once again fails to bring much to his character, making him seem like some guy devoid of emotions (especially when there were two females sobbing in the same tent as him, he merely stares into thin air).
I’ve read some other reviews for Everest prior to entering theaters, and all of them have agreed with one thing- cinematography. That, though, happens to be yet another overrated factor (another problem I had, but to a lesser degree, with Martian). The overhead shots of the mountains were beautiful, but not as eye-catching or heart-pounding as one would make it seem like. “I wanna see the view at the peak, so I needa go up”- that statement was mentioned in the film, albeit with a different phrasing. Yet, when we finally go to where the entire film has been building up towards, we see- well- nothing as wondrous or out-of-this-world than clouds and lower mountains everywhere else. When the blizzard finally comes, it obscures the visibility so much that we are left with nothing but white and snow. Really dull here, making no particular stand out scenes (and once again, difficulty in identifying locations in the film). You definitely don’t need a premium format or large screen theater to catch this. Or heck, not even a 3D one, for that matter. Actually, forget it, I guess you should just save this for home release, since I guess this isn’t money well-spent.
Everest is undeniably a film that brings along a huge truckload of potential. Yet the film fails to capitalize on that, and instead delivers one of the least emotionally-engaging survival movies we have seen in quite some time. Go watch The Martian, if you have a choice, and I promise, you wouldn’t regret that one bit.
And here’s my final verdict:
2.5/10 (overrated cinematography, sub-par acting, dull color palette, lack of emotional engagement, bad character development, especially for supporting cast, who seem disposable, problematic pacing)
On a scale of A to F, where F means stupid and dumb and ridiculous, and anything that you possibly wouldn’t love, and where A symbolizes perfection,
Character Development: B-
Entertainment Factor: C+
Emotional Engagement- C+