Sunday, September 20, 2015

"Everest": a bit too much melodrama, but a moviegoer's best chance to see the roof of the Earth

For most people, “Everest”, directed by Baltasar Kormakur, if seen in Imax 3-D in a large theater, is the closest they will come to (vicariously) taking in views from (and round) the Earth’s highest point. Digital technology has made it practical to reshoot many views on location, although much of the film was set up and shot in Italy.
The film tells, loosely with some apparent fiction, the story of a 1996 expedition, in which eight people died after the party was caught by a ferocious storm on returning.  A much closer adaptation had been a TV movie based on John Krakauer’s book “Into Thin Air”.  Vox explains all of this in an article by Todd Vam Der Werff, here
Rob Hall (Jason Clarke) has formed a company called Adventure Consulting, which arranges climbs of challenging peaks.  A client pays about $65000, and progresses through a series of base camps up to about 23000 feet, and does two practice climbs starting over an ice glacier before the final climb.  The people carry oxygen, and learn to use aluminum ladders that would scare me.

The day of the climb, everyone is awakened at 12:30 AM.  The idea is to be off the summit by 2 PM, before thunderstorms (with snow) come.  And the plans don’t quite work out, as the chance for severe thunderstorms seems to be more than just marginal.
Much of the drama concerns a particular client, Texas businessman Buck Weathers (Josh Bolin), who has an attentive family back in Dallas. He has more physical trouble than expected (including eye problems) but insists on making the climb, although he doesn’t get there until 3:30 PM, and then is a real liability for everyone getting back down. The film makes a lot of melodrama out of this, but to me his behavior was unacceptable. Krakauer is the journalist, played by Michael Kelly, and Jake Gyllenhaal (clothed in thi movie) plays a rival organizer.
The film offers shots of Katmandu, and of several villages and camps in Nepal that appear to be on location. Nepal seems to have inspired a lot of descriptions of communities in Clive Barker’s fantasy novel “Imajica”, which we hope will be a TV series soon. The area has the latitude of Florida, but at over 10000 feet snow is common, and the camps start at about 12000 feet.  

The official site is here  (Universal, Working Title and Walden Media).

Wikipedia attribution link for NASA photo of Everest from space. 
Ii saw the film before a moderate crowd at AMC Tysons Corner in an Imax auditorium with 3-D (which sometimes got a little out of focus).  The aspect ratio was always 2.35:1; it did not expand to use the full “Imax” screen vertically.


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