There’s always a question mark that hangs over film adaptations of true events, and when it’s the true story of a tragedy, that question is always more pointed. “Everest” struggles with the same problems that “The Impossible” did: what is the point of the movie, apart from to show the tragic suffering and horrific deaths of real people using state of the art special effects?
Baltasar Kormákur’s film is beautifully photographed but doesn’t manage to answer this question. It’s not contextual enough to have documentary value and fails as a drama due to a poor and disjointed script and characterisation thinner than the air at the cruising altitude of a 747. There’s no denying much of it looks spectacular (save for a handful of scenes which are painfully obviously shot on a sound stage and not on location) but it ends up becomes an uncomfortable ‘snuff’ reconstruction: after all, these are ‘real’ people dying in front of you although you’re never invested enough in them to really feel it. What little investment you do have is somewhat diffused once they’re on the mountain because it’s often hard to figure out who is who once they’re all wrapped up in their gratingly ubiquitous North Face gear.
Having assembled a fine cast, the script gives them very little to work with and while some accents veer wildly across the Southern Ocean to the Transvaal rather than New Zealand, the cast do well with what they have to work with.
There’s no heroism, edification or real understanding here of the people involved, just a tragic set of circumstances as experienced mountain climbers make a series of bad decisions and the mountain punishes them for it. A few of the deaths are so perfunctory that they border on absurdist comedy and although the film manages to convey the ferocity and terror of climbing the world’s highest peak, it feels unnecessarily and morbidly voyeuristic to have reconstructed a real tragedy rather than explored the drama and risk of ascending Everest through a fictionalised story.