ADVENTURE; 2hr 1min
STARRING: Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin, Sam Worthington, Emily Watson, Keira Knightley, Robin Wright
It's a long way to the top: Clarke
Towering 8,848 metres — 29,031 feet — above sea level, Everest is the highest mountain on Earth. Impressive, for sure. But stats melt into insignificance like thawing snow when confronted in widescreen with the mountain’s monumental proportions by Everest director Balthasar Kormákur. The hill from hell is as overwhelming and implacable as death. And that’s in a movie. For the men and women in its actual thrall, the stripping of life to survival while battling altitude sickness, frostbite, gale-force winds and avalanches is a definitive test and a supreme validation.
Kormákur’s nerve-wracking drama is based on a calamitous 1996 expedition in which eight people perished. He takes time to introduce the keyed-up brothers and sisters in arms, among them group leaders Rob Hall (Clarke) and Scott Fischer (Gyllenhaal), pathologist Beck Weathers (Brolin), mountaineer Guy Cotter (Worthington) and Everest Base Camp den mother Helen Wilton (Watson). (Knightley and Wright play Hall and Weathers’ at-home wives, Jan and Peach.) The cast is admirably game, although inevitably dwarfed by cinematographer Salvatore Tottino’s harrowing images of the colossus on whose knife-edges climbers so torturously labour. His Everest is breathtaking and terrible — a summons you don’t want to hear.