It’s one big rollercoaster ride. It’s a long and tense way up, but a wild rush back down.
When director Baltasar Kormákur undertook this project, he could’ve easily mailed it in and banked on the great visuals and the stunning experience that is IMAX, but instead, he pushes out a real movie. The film follows Rob Hall, played by Jason Clark, a guide who takes people to the peak of Everest for a small fortune. His group this go around is comprised of several interesting characters as well as some familiar faces, such as Josh Brolin. As they ascend the mountain and combat the obstacles along the way, they realize getting up the mountain is only half the journey.
What Baltasar does best is not just capture the jaw dropping visuals and astonishing vistas, but attempt to capture the emotional journeys these men and women are embarking on. The cinematography is wonderful. When the ice cracks or things don’t go as planned, you don’t just see it and hear it, but you can feel it. Credit to the encapsulating directing and cinematography employed. However, as much as you get to see these characters, you don’t ever feel for these characters. They tell their back stories, but never seeing them in a place other than Everest makes it hard to picture. The way and the words used to describe life before the climb don’t paint enough of a picture for you to image these characters living in another context. A flashback or cut to a specific memory would’ve done wonders to build up the pathos these characters so desperately need to properly engage the user on the character level.
The writing was average. It wasn’t bad and it wasn’t good. It didn’t it try to do anything interesting or new either. What you get is a clichéd telling of a thrilling adventure story involving the most renowned mountain on Earth. This points to the main reason why it was difficult to bond with the characters. One of the most difficult things in writing is creating different voices for each character. More often than not, they sound very similar and don’t have any defining qualities or idiosyncratic speech. Such is the case in this film, as in many other films. However, in a thriller like this, the impact of the climax depends on the bond and pathos with each character. Everything you can do to build a character as a unique individual is much exponentially magnified and it’s a big reason this film loses points.
The acting throughout is spot on and convincing. You’re thoroughly convinced every single on of these people are fighting the elements of nature at it’s worst and are slowly dying because of it. Jason Clarke nails his performance and does justice to the man he portrays. Jake Gyllenhaal doesn’t have that much screen time, but he nails it for every minute he gets. Josh Brolin shows off his acting chops by venturing into a little bit of uncharted territory for him. His character’s emotional state is a hard one to pull off, but he does so in spades.
At the end of the day, what you have here is a set of good performances, good directing, and a stale screenplay. The effects are great and will enthrall you despite of the lackluster writing. If you were already contemplating this movie, it’s everything you think it’s going to be. Anyone who’s ever dreamed of climbing Everest, or even heard of the mountain is sure to have a blast watching this film.
The film is now playing!