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Movie Review: Everest (2015)

Runtime: 121 minutes
 Rated: PG-13
Director: Baltasar Kormákur 
Writers: William Nicholson, Simon Beaufoy
Starring: Jason Clarke, Ang Phula Sherpa, Thomas M. Wright  
In Everest, a bunch of wealthy, ambitious people set out to climb the world's infamously tallest mountain. Said mountain is record-setting cold, subject to violent storms with ferocious winds, and has a reputation for killing many who attempt to climb it. And even when birds choose to fly around instead of over it, this doesn't stop some humans from attempting to climb it. And what do we get from their efforts? A movie about it.

The film is based on the true story of a climbing expedition from 1996 wherein 8 people died. And although no single account is credited as having been the source behind the movie, the inspiration came from William Nicholson's and Simon Beaufoy's screenplay and press materials for the movie mention both Jon Krakauer's renowned bestseller Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster and Beck Weathers' Left for Dead: My Journey Home From Everest as another source. 

With its own set of personal dynamics - and somewhat of a complex maintenance of personalities - the cast (Jake Gyllenhaal, Jason Clarke, Keira Knightley, Josh Brolin, and Sam Worthington) represent a team of friends who get their kicks climbing high mountains, and now, those same friends want to reach the top of Everest. And true to form for the same director who brought us the 2012 movie Contraband, we get good character development.

Yes, the characters are as distinctly fashioned as the real-life versions they represent. Each of them have their own obvious quirks that are presented to us in short order, along with the phrase: “Human beings aren’t built to survive at the cruising altitude of a Boeing 747.”

Now from there, you’d assume the built-in character conflicts and inhospitable environment are ready to work together to just fly right off the shelves and entertain us, but you’d be wrong. At least in a made-for-TV drama, we care about the characters, but it becomes an actual mystery as to why all of this excitement is as unappealing and lifeless as it is.

And not only do the characters themselves never win us over, the plot never speaks to us since we can’t forget about the fact that what we are watching is mostly a dramatically manipulative re-creation. Scenes of frostbite, oxygen deprivation, and egos flaring are all too real, so much so that they make us feel cold and physically ill while watching.

But none of this can hide the fact that when we are watching a documentary, at least what we're seeing is honest about its intentions to inform us, as opposed to yanking our chain like this movie does in efforts to shock us into caring.

There’s probably no more dramatic of a setting for an Earth-bound survival movie than Everest (since you'd have to go to Mars to find higher mountains). But honestly, did we need a movie to tell us we will probably die climbing Everest?!


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