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‘Everest’ barely peaks critics’ interest

By Santiago Montoya

Section: Arts

October 2, 2015

The author of “Into the Wild,” Jon Krakauer, is the same mind behind “Into Thin Air,” which is about eight climbers who attempted the quixotic attempt to reach the peak of the Mount Everest. Both books have become bestselling non-fiction works and are both about survival—well, sort of. In the end (spoiler alert) the protagonists are always defeated by Mother Nature and expire in the middle of extreme cold weather conditions. Now both books have been adapted into a film called “Everest” which hit the silver screen in late September.

The film is a showcase of spectacular visuals, displaying a superb use of cinematography which is only worth seeing in IMAX 3D. The visuals compensate for the sloppy and weak script that tries to be too many different things and falls short in almost every aim.

On May 11, 1996, eight people were caught in a blizzard and died when they were descending from the summit of the Mount Everest. This is marked in history as the third deadliest day on Everest—the first one being the recent Nepal earthquake, with a total of 19 deaths. On board the 1996 Everest disaster was the New Zealand expedition leader, Rob Hall, who in the film reveals to Josh Brolin’s character that he was hired to safely guide the climbers’ descent from the summit. Nevertheless, Mother Nature proved to be more powerful, and the rest is history.

The film could have hammered more on the controversial topics that surround this disaster, but it just does not have the gall to address it. At first, “Everest” seems to offer two possibilities: Is it going to be an old-school human drama about the disaster? Or is it going to be a more modern expose about the commercialization of Everest? Honestly, the film tries to be both but does not achieve either.

The characters are also not well developed, which in part has to do with the poorly written script penned by William Nicholson (“Gladiator”) and Simon Beaufoy (“127 Hours”). The sole standout was Jason Clarke, who portrays Rob Hall as having a kind soul that ultimately ends up being his Achilles’ heel. And everyone else? Despite the talented group of serious actors (Jake Gyllenhaal, Josh Brolin, John Hawkes, Robin Wright, Keira Knightley and Emily Watson, to name a few) the audience spends little time with the characters, which therefore creates an unavoidable detachment.

Bringing onboard the Nicholson and Beaufoy team of writers and producers such as Tim Bevan (“The Theory of Everything” and “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy”), plus previous recognition from the Academy and pushing the release date back to September, is all part of the strategy for the movie to join the Oscar talk this season. However, “Everest” lacks the ambition to be considered one of this year’s big contenders. But it does have the chance to become a strong contender in the visual effects category, as well as other highly overlooked technical categories.

The Icelandic director Baltasar Kormákur, whose previous work includes the modestly successful films “Contraband” and “2 Guns,” was in charge of leading this team. The film generates some suspense, which is always engaging, but nonetheless can become too chaotic, especially if you have not already read the books. There comes a point when the audience will question who is where and who is alive, and this morphs into a distraction that makes the film forgettable.

The movie tries to be different things for different reasons, but fails to execute virtually every idea, becoming a rather conglomerated and muddled piece. Is it worth anybody’s time? “Everest” will respond to a few of your questions, such as what happened on May 11, 1996 on Mount Everest. And going back to the beginning of the film, it will provide viewers with a better viewpoint of why tourists attempt this harrowing, freezing challenge.

Aside from that, there is no other reason why “Everest” is worth anybody’s time. It does not have an edgy, arguable point, nor will it be in this year’s Oscar radar, nor leave an indelible, powerful impression. The future of this motion picture will simply vanish, and no one will seem to care.

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