Never let the facts get in the way of a damn good film, as Oliver Stone might say. Sadly, with Everest, based on a disastrous 1996 ascent of the world’s tallest mountain, the facts rather do get in the way of this undeniably spectacular but ultimately indifferent film.
Let’s start with the positives. The cinematography is magnificent and director Baltasar Kormakur stages some genuinely vertigo-inducing shots and set pieces. If you are going to see this at all, see it on the biggest screen you can.
Then there’s a talented cast doing their best to vie for attention. The likes of Josh Brolin, Keira Knightley, Sam Worthington, Jake Gyllenhaal, Robin Wright and Jason Clarke give it their all, with Emily Watson proving particularly impressive, but they are hamstrung by an earnest screenplay that cannot entirely escape disaster movie cliché (including tearful phone calls to relatives at home). That these sequences are based in fact does not help the film.
Another factual spanner thrown in the works is that so many characters are involved. One longs for the narrative clarity of, say, Touching the Void. Consequently certain loose ends aren’t properly clarified, and the viewer ends up lost in the blizzard, unable to figure out who is who. This robs the film of emotional power as we don’t really get under the skin of these characters.
It isn’t a total disaster (no pun intended), but despite occasional powerful moments and genuine spectacle, Everest feels like a bit of an expensive letdown. In the mountain survival adventure stakes, I much preferred the afore-mentioned Touching the Void, or Frank Marshall’s underrated Alive. With Everest, the facts really do tend to clutter the film.