“Human beings simply aren't built to function at the cruising altitudes of a seven-forty-seven.”
Based on the true events that took place in Mount Everest on May 1996 during a climbing expedition to reach the summit of the mountain, this disaster movie directed by Baltasar Kormakur stands out for its fantastic and impressive visuals. However what it has in its visual department, it lacks in character development. The only strong character here is Jason Clarke’s Rob Hall who is the heart and soul of a story that is a bit overpopulated with characters who don’t get enough screen time for us to really identify with them. The narrative could’ve worked better with fewer characters, but the magnificent mountain does end up taking center stage and the visual style makes up for all its flaws. Some patience is required as we are introduced to each character at the beginning of the film, but once the preparation for the climbing begins its hard not to fall in love with all the beauty surrounding them and the passion these climbers had for reaching the summit. Kormakur does manage to establish the harsh conditions these men would have to endure to reach the top while they acclimatize to the region, which makes the approaching menacing storm during the second half of the film even more dreadful. Including so many characters and trying to remain true as possible to the real life events may have hurt the narrative arc of the film, but the scenery more than makes up for it.
By 1996 the climbing expeditions to reach the peak of Mount Everest had become a sought out tourist attraction. The nearly impossible task wasn’t only achieved by professional climbers, but now amateurs could achieve their dream by paying for the service of well trained expedition companies that facilitated the acclimatizing process. One company is being led by experienced climber, Rob Hall (Jason Clarke) who is preparing his new crew for the upcoming adventure. He leaves his pregnant wife, Jan (Keira Knightley) at home and heads off to Nepal to meet the team. This year the clients are Doug (John Hawkes), a returning customer who hadn’t been able to reach the summit the previous year, Yasuko (Naoko Mori) who has climbed 6 of the 7 highest peaks of the planet and is hoping to complete her adventure, Beck Weathers (Josh Brolin) who is so immersed in the experience that he’s forgotten to call his wife, Peach (Robin Wright) for their anniversary, among many others. Rob is worried about the growing amount of expeditions that are heading to the summit around the same time so he asks other experienced leaders like Scott Fischer (Jake Gyllenhaal) to team up with his people. Other employees working at the mountain include Helen (Emily Watson) who is in charge of communications from the base camp and Guy Cotter (Sam Worthington) another experienced crew member who is a friend of Rob’s. As hard as they were working to give their clients a memorable experience, there was nothing they could do to anticipate the storm that was heading their way.
Kormakur had previously directed two very different action flicks starring Mark Wahlberg (Contraband and 2 Guns), but this is more of an epic disaster film with some tense moments of human drama. The cast is brilliant, but as I mentioned before there isn’t enough time to get to know them all. Jason Clarke is the actor who is given more depth and he is allowed to flesh his character, but the rest are simply there as recognizable names: Worthington, Gyllenhaal, Knightley, Hawkes, and Watson don’t have much moments to shine which is a shame because they are talented actors. Perhaps the only other actor we truly get to know beside Clarke is Josh Brolin who gets some more screen time as well. But despite all the big names, the truly breathtaking character here is the Mountain which imposes an immense threat for everyone, even for the professionals who think they are part of it. I was a bit underwhelmed with the movie because I wanted to care more for these characters, but I did enjoy the breathtaking visuals and the marvelous landscape.