Judging by its around-Oscar-deliberation-time release date, the stellar cast assembled, and its true story origin, Everest has always appeared to be more than the mainstream disaster movie its marketing may have suggested. Icelandic director Baltasar Kormakur’s enigmatic telling, based on the 1996 Nepal mountaineering tragedy, is an enthralling piece of work, with more in common with his earlier features 101 Reykjavik, Jar City and The Sea, than his most recent endeavour 2 Guns.

Filmed on location in Nepal, under arduous circumstances and respectfully light on CGI, Kormakur utilises his skills at harnessing drama with breathtaking imagery, remarkable characters and a tight, fact-loaded screenplay by William Nicholson (Gladiator, Les Miserables) and Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours) who have collaborated to craft a rich, magnanimous and cognizant tale.

At the start of production, the tragic event the film is based on was the worst disaster to occur on Everest until another fatal avalanche struck mid-shoot in 2014, claiming a greater number of lives. Yet despite its mighty research and immaculate execution, Everest still feels somewhat hollow. This is mostly due to its tendency to flit between too many view-points during its two hour running time. There is also a lack of a prominent protagonist. While expedition leader Rob Hall (Jason Clarke) is the most likely candidate to lead the film, it’s hard for the viewer to fully empathise with him to due to his lack of screen time needed to fully develop his character.

Everest was originally intended as a solo-character focused film with Christian Bale as Hall but after Bale bailed and Clarke replaced him, an ensemble version of the story was devised with supporting characters emphasised. Clarke also replaced Bale as John Connor in Terminator: Genisys (and look what happened there) but in Everest he is tremendous, as are the rest of the accomplished cast, consisting of Keira Knightley, Jake Gyllenhaal, Josh Brolin, Sam Worthington and Emily Watson, all providing solid support as expedition members or distressed relations.

Kormakur has crafted a rich and awe-inspiring adventure epic that slightly struggles when striving for poignancy. While arresting cinematography, dizzying POVs and jagged camera-work contribute to the disorientating suspense scenes and the script gathers momentum meritoriously, it’s unable to effectively convey key character emotions.

The film remains a sharply structured, intelligent and faithful dramatisation but it could have been much greater had the characters been given more screen-time or been better explored within a longer duration.

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Daniel Goodwin is a prevalent film writer for multiple websites including HeyUGuys, Scream Horror Magazine, Little White Lies, i-D and Dazed. After studying Film, Media and Cultural Studies at university and Creative Writing at the London School of Journalism, Daniel went on to work in TV production for Hat Trick Productions, So Television and The London Studios. He has also worked at the Home Office, in the private office of Hilary Benn MP and the Coroner's and Burials Department, as well as on the Movies on Pay TV market investigation for the Competition Commission.
everest-reviewA sharply structured, intelligent and faithful dramatisation.