An impressive ensemble cast tackles Mother Nature in a quest to reach the summit of Mount Everest. Humanity has always welcomed the impossible challenge. This true story tells us of one such adventure, as a group of adventurers risk their lives to scale one of the tallest mountains on Earth.
This drama focuses on character. The adventure is purposefully staged as we meet our climbers in a Tibetan village. Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin, and John Hawkes lead the cast.
Clarke works for Adventure Consultants. He has managed to balance his life so he can make money doing what he loves. He leads his clients high up into the mountains where they will spend a couple of weeks acclimatizing at base camp.
Jake Gyllenhaal runs an opposing adventure team waiting at base camp. You really get the idea that many tourists reach this destination to scratch it off their bucket list. For thrill seekers like Gyllenhaal’s character, this is easy money.
However, the larger impression is how these men and women want to challenge themselves. Some of them want to make a name for themselves, while others want to inspire others to believe that anything is possible.
This character work sets the stage beautifully. Before we get to the treacherous climb, our story also focuses some time developing those that manage communications, navigation, and team coordination.
Emily Watson once again uses subtlety to great effect with her emotional yet strong performance. Once the storm hits she will provide a crucial link to the mountaineers and outside help. Watson also handles communication with the families back home.
Kiera Knightley plays the wife of Jason Clarke’s character. They are expecting a baby in a few months, so Clarke is trying to make as much money as he can, while he’s still able.
Their relationship is tenderly captured and ultimately one of the film’s strongest driving forces, mainly due to Knightley’s astounding performance.
Once the men ascend beyond base camp, the real adventure begins. The sheer spectacle of the wide vistas is a true sight to behold in 3D IMAX. You definitely want to see this movie on the largest format available in your area. The scenery is awe inspiring and jaw-dropping.
All of these elements (the scale, the danger, the tension, and character we connect with), combine for a harrowing experience at the cinema.
When the intensity kicks in we have an incredible sense of danger because of the time spent setting the stage. Early in the film, we are explicitly told of all the dangers to the human body at these extreme heights, so by the time the storm hits while they’re on top of Everest we are fully on board. We know exactly what’s at risk and we care about our heroes.
By casting serious character actors rather than Hollywood action heroes, this true story focuses on realism.
It may be difficult to imagine why someone would risk their lives to climb a mountain, but the movie provides some answers. These men wanted to conquer the impossible to prove something to themselves and to others. They want to inspire us to live our lives to the fullest, by seeking adventure and pursuing impossible dreams.
As far as pure entertainment goes, we get an intense adventure and big screen spectacle with inspiring characters we actually care about.
(3.5 out of 5)
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