‘Everest’ has real docudrama feel to it

Everest

(Photo from Universal Pictures) Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Kelly and Josh Brolin in “Everest.”

BY ROGER THOMAS
Film Critic
I saw “Everest” over a week ago and I am still trying to classify it.
Obviously from the trailer one would conclude that it is an action flick. Certainly, the film is a drama with some powerful emotions. It is also history in that it tells a true story from 1996 when several climbers seeking to reach the peak of Everest get caught in an extreme storm.
The film is ultimately all of these things: action, drama and history. But I would not choose any of those terms to describe the film first and foremost.
I would use the term docudrama. This film plays like a documentary. Except for the fact that there are several recognizable actors in the film (Jason Clarke, John Hawkes, Emily Watson, Keira Knightley, Josh Brolin and Jake Gyllenhaal, just to name a few), one could mistake that this film was created from actual footage of the event. There is not a lot of extra subplots, character development or even humor. “Everest” simply seeks to reveal what happened in ’96, at least as approximately accurate as possible.
Another observation I made about the film is the lack of objectionable material. I am not one who counts profane words, bloody scenes or immoral behavior in films. Any count would not necessarily influence the quality of a film. However, I do sometimes find myself realizing whether a film, or at least my recollection of it after a viewing, is one that would be appropriate for families.
“Everest” is that kind of film. As much as I can remember, there is very little offensive material: a brief scene that implies drug use, a few milder profanities, and not much else.
Another strength of the film is the beautiful cinematography and extremely successful special effects. Most of us will not climb a snow-capped mountain in our lifetimes. Seeing this film will be as close as we get. That alone is a reason for me to recommend it.
I personally would like to know what mountain they used for the impressive cinematography. In the closing credits, there are references to filming in Switzerland, and a friend of mine commented that perhaps the filmmakers shot some of the footage in the Alps. Wherever it was, just those breathtaking shots are worth the price of admission.
After seeing “Everest,” two thoughts were raised in my mind. First, what drives some people to that dangerous challenge of climbing Everest or some other extreme activity? Obviously, most of us are not driven toward such lofty adventures. Is it the sense of accomplishment or the thrill of possible injury or death? Are some lives so complacent that they need an adventure? I am raising two teenagers as a single parent. For me, at least for now, that is enough adventure.
The other thought, that continually causes me to ponder, is the fact they have commercialized the climbing of Mount Everest. Nineteen years ago, it was big business, and I am assuming it is even more now. One character comments that this extreme vacation is costing him “$65,000.” A lot of money, if the film is accurate, is being spent and collected at the bottom of the tallest mountain in the world. Before seeing “Everest,” I would never have imagined that climbing the highest mountain has become an industry.
One other note, I saw the film in IMAX 3-D and I would highly recommend this format to truly experience the magnificence of the film.
“Everest” is not one of the best films of the year, but it is well worth seeing for all the reasons outlined above.

  Roger Thomas is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association. He reviews films for The Stanly News & Press.

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