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A Review of “Everest” By Don Gibble

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 A Review of “Everest” By Don Gibble

4 out of 5

   Sonoma county, get ready for a cinematic experience you will never forget! For those of us who will never climb Mount Everest, the new 3D drama “Everest” provides plenty of vividly illustrated reasons to rationalize leaving it off one's bucket list. However, there are quite a few good reasons to see this robust dramatization of a 1996 assault on the world's tallest mountain that went disastrously wrong, beginning with the eye-popping, you-are-there visual techniques that make you feel glad indeed that you're not actually up there at more than 29,000 feet, but also including multiple characters sufficiently humanized to create real concern for their fates, and an attention to realistic detail that gives the film texture.

   With its perilous central premise and gallery of individuals, you could say “Everest” is a disaster movie in the old Hollywood sense of the term, but it doesn't feel like one. Telling the same story as, but not officially based on, Jon Krakauer's best-selling book “Into Thin Air”, the film hinges on the freakish conditions that led to the deaths of eight climbers on May 10, 1996. Krakauer is present as a character (played by “House of Cards” Michael Kelly), there to write an article for Outside magazine.

   The fact that some engaging, friendly Aussies are front and center as the main tour organizers and guides may account for a good deal of the films immediate accessibility; they're the competent, reassuring type you'd feel good entrusting yourself to on such an expedition. Rob Hall (Jason Clarke), a seemingly all-around great guy, runs Adventure Consultants, and he's helped out most importantly by logistics coordinator Helen (Emily Watson), and guide and close friend Guy (Sam Worthington).

    Aside from Krakauer, among those arriving from distant places are Beck (Josh Brolin). A big-talking Texan; Doug (John Hawkes), a mailman who failed to make it up on a previous attempt, and Yasuko (Naoko Mori), a Japanese woman who has scaled the highest mountains on every other continent. Two competing guides who will be leading groups up on the same day are stark opposites: American hippie Scott Fischer (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Russian Anatoli Boukreev (Ingvar Sigordsson), a military-style tough guy so macho that he refuses to use supplementary oxygen.

    The starting off point for summit seekers is Katmandu, and “Everest” earns early points for its unblinking glimpses of the Nepalese capital's almost grotesque squalor, a characteristic that now spills over to the sites of the ascent base camps, where no one gives a thought to cleaning up. Krakauer had initially thought to focus his Outside piece on the downsides of Everest tourism and, to its credit, the film doesn't shy away from highlighting the unseemly effects of overcrowding, not only at the camps but on the path to the summit.

Everest  Never let Go

     In a way that is engagingly welcoming rather than just informational, the film provides a snappy account of the 40-day prep period; the groups proceed to ever-higher elevations to acclimatize to the altitude, camaraderies develop, foibles and fears are exposed, and anxieties and anticipation mix in equal measure.

     The second hour is devoted to the final ascent and its aftermath, and it's all quite intense. A perfect, entirely unexpected storm howls in as the first climbers arrive on the tiny precipice, while many more are lined up single file on the narrow path waiting their turns.

     The cast is rock-solid. Some filming was done in Nepal, with further mountain location work based in Italy and studio scenes shot in Rome and London. It's a great time to go to the movie theater. If you haven't seen “Black Mass” or “Grandma” then do yourself a favor and see them!