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Film review: Everest is a star-studded mountaineering drama where nature reigns

Stunning scenery and camera work but lacks emotional impact

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 12 September, 2015, 8:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 September, 2015, 1:10pm

From Gravity and 127 Hours to All Is Lost and Unbroken, Hollywood has lately mined the theme of man versus the elements almost to the point of exhaustion. Now comes Baltasar Kormákur’s Everest, a true-life tale based around a tragic attempt to ascend the summit of the world’s highest mountain.

Leading the expedition is unflappable New Zealand climber Rob Hall (Jason Clarke), one of eight people who lost their lives on that fateful day back in May 1996.

Kormákur has gathered together a cast-iron ensemble for this film. From the moment the group lands in Nepal, the script establishes the personalities: Josh Brolin’s Texan Beck Weathers is cocksure; John Hawkes’ Seattle mailman Doug Hansen is quietly determined, having stop short of the summit once before; Jake Gyllenhaal’s big-bearded Scott Fischer is the adrenaline junkie.

Back home, hanging on the phone, are a pensive Keira Knightley as Rob’s pregnant wife Jan and a go-getting Robin Wright as Beck’s spouse Peach.

Blending real-life footage of Everest with scenes shot in the Italian Alps, the scenes of the climbers gradually acclimatising and ascending the mountain are enthralling; using 3D and IMAX technology to full effect, your stomach will do back-flips.

The problem lies in the film’s second half, as events begin to conspire against the climbers and a huge storm sweeps in. It never quite has the emotional impact hoped for, despite a noble turn from Clarke. In the end, it’s perhaps Mother Nature that gives the best performance; she’s never been more majestic on film.

Everest opens on September 17