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Everest - The Long Climb

HaydnSpurrell HaydnSpurrell By the time the credits role on this survival tale based on true events, there lacks that feeling of satisfaction or contentment. It leaves an emptiness, because this is a terribly bleak film. But it also isn't the accomplishment it sets out to be.

Perhaps its flaw is in its own DNA. There isn't much of a story here. It's getting this group of paying customers to the top of Everest, but the film spends so little time enjoying its achievement that it's clear that reaching the summit isn't even the story.

And its sprawling cast is a shame, as they all fight for time to the point that half their names don't even register by the end of the film. Jason Clark as the head of his hiking party puts in a solid performance, though he's certainly proven himself capable of playing the good guy. And Rob Hall is the definition of the character you can't help but love, but to the point that he's basically a caricature.

But apart from him, and despite a stellar cast, not many other characters hold their own. Jake Gyllenhaal feels wasted as Scott Fischer, the resident hippy with a far more blase' attitude and a bizarre exit in the final act. Keira Knightley also plays a part, albeit small, and supplies an integral tear-jerking performance. That's even if her character feels like an enormous cliche. If the main character is promising his pregnant wife that he'll be back, you can start digging his grave.

Of course, anyone who knows the true story knows how this is going to end. The film aims for a somber and sorrowful climax as opposed to an exciting fight for survival. That sense of dread passes for a sense of complete defeat, making for a film that you might not want to return to anytime soon.

Though, the fact that it fails to leave a lasting impression as a truly powerful tale of survival may also hinder Everest's re-watch value. That being said, it is a gorgeous film. It perfectly captures the utter beauty of the mountain, even as Everest shows off its terrifying strength.

Emily Watson is strong and sympathetic as Helen, coordinating the climbers and urging them on, but fighting hard not to lose herself when things are dire. That Helen struggles so hard with her feet firmly planted on safe ground is a testament to Watson, her motherly presence the soulful gravitational pull that the film requires.

Everest captures the desperate battle between man and nature well, making it astoundingly clear that nature does not lose. When Beck (Josh Brollin) tries to stand, before falling back onto his knees, it's the strength of the weather that we remember. It's the unforgiving nature of the mountain that is the antagonist of the film, but it ultimately means that, thematically, there's no victory to be had here.

And reaching the top of the mountain is no victory. That takes place about halfway into the film, and ultimately sets the stage for the doomed descent. That final hour certainly drags. Its slow and somber crawl to the finish line is indicative of the style of the film, but in that sense Everest can't decide whether it's a documentary or a mainstream movie. Instead, it's somewhere in the middle, treating us to a large cast that keeps knocking the spotlight around, and showing us the rigors of the climb.

Where the character development falters isn't exclusively on the fact that there are just too many of them. It's deeper. It can't quite characterise why these people are here, climbing up Earth's icy hell. A scene even takes the time to ask a couple of the characters why they're here. That scene points out this exact flaw, to the detriment of the film.

While it can be argued that these unsure responses, or these flimsy reasons, are somewhat realistic of how real, everyday people might respond to such a question, the film needed something more. If we can't believe in each character's journey, then what are we watching for?

Everest is thwarted by the fact that it is an adaptation of real life. It plays out the events of an ill fated expedition, and it tries to make us care in two hours that could have been less. Its premise is more promising than the end result is satisfying, but its visual beauty cannot be understated. With an up and down cast, a shifty focus, and with no real point or reasoning, we're left with the hollow feeling that the tragedy here may have been better depicted in a less dramatic medium.


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HaydnSpurrell HaydnSpurrell

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