There was a time when this kind of survival epic was the big thing in Hollywood, but the recent release of the Everest DVD comes as the blockbuster interest lies elsewhere. The likes of Twister, Dante’s Peak and Apollo 13 were big hitters in their day, but recently there hasn’t been all that much in the way of “against the odds” action apart from last year’s earthquake battleground, San Andres.
It just sort of feels like this kind of film has been done already, so why bother, which resulted in it being a little lower down in the watch list than it would have been if it had hit the big screen back in the 1990s. However, the reality of the situation, some exceptional acting from a very strong cast and the monumental power of the world’s largest mountain, and the elements that surround it, make for a very different beast that manages to draw you in to the slow and steady climb of the film as it reaches its unrelenting, awe-inspiring peak.
It’s an adaptation of a true story surrounding an ill-fated trek to the summit of Everest by a group of commercial expedition teams who are trying to give their high-paying customers the achievement of a lifetime. When a storm filled cloud bank surprises them on the final assent they’re left to the mercy of some of the most savage elements on the planet, a place where your body literally starts to die just by being there.
Everest takes its time on the development of the story and for a while we were lulled into thinking that it was never going to take hold, but this is just a device to give you time to warm to the people on the expedition, take in their back story and understand their motivations for taking on such a gruelling task. The moment you connect with them it’s got you and as things go bad and then from bad to worse you’re in it with them for the long haul.
January 2016 is proving to be pretty chilly, so it’s the perfect time to feel a lot of empathy for the people caught up in the drama, but you’re never in any doubt about how intense the situation is. It’s got as much pull as the mountain has on the people that want to climb it and there’s a whole lot of hope, tears and respect to come before you make it through to the other side of the production.
Jason Clarke (Terminator Genysis) makes for a very solid and dependable pair of hands to lever the film around as he plays the lead climber for one of the expedition teams. He brings a good grounding for the real feel of the film, which is added to by some simple, but convincing performances from Josh Brolin (Hail, Caesar!), Sam Worthington (Avatar), Keira Knightley (The Imitation Game), Emily Watson (The Dresser) and Elizabeth Debicki (The Man from U.N.C.L.E.). There’s a bit more mountain man flamboyance from Jake Gyllenhaal (Prince Of Persia: The Sands Of Time), who plays fellow lead climber with another of the teams heading to the summit on the fateful day in 1996, but its all a part of the rich and diverse tapestry of the film.
Visually it’s very impressive, starting off with a few fleeting glimpses up at the colossus mountain in all it’s seemingly tranquil glory before getting into the detail of the jagged ice wall that climbers need to pass to start an ascent. When the wall of dark cloud sweeps up to the summit it looks overwhelmingly destructive and what follows is a string of intense action sequences with the climbers scrambling for safety in the grip of the pelting wind-whipped blizzard onslaught.
Everest has turned out to be much more of a “must watch” film than we’d given it credit for and now that it’s available on DVD, Blu-ray and digital download it’s definitely worth seeing. You might think that you’ve missed out on some of the impact of the grand scale imagery that would have looked imposing on the big screen, but if we’re honest the emotional performances, drama and edge-of-your-seat tension is what the film is really about.
Everest DVD review: 4.4/5