Watching Everest will remind you what Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay achieved 62 years ago took more than knowledge, experience and know how. It took a lot of luck.
If Everest is the world’s most unforgiving mountain, that is a great shame. Its sweeping beauty hosts some of the most hostile mountain climbing terrain on the planet. As recently as the late 20th century one in four climbers died in their bid to reach the summit.
Rob Hall had a great reputation for being very responsible and caring. As the film opens he had never had a single fatality in all the expeditions his company Adventure Consultants had embarked on.
As the events are based on the 1996 climbing season, anyone wanting to know how things end are free to do so. I’ll leave the spoiler alerts out though and give my regards to a brilliant job well done in telling the story of these climbers. There were a lot of them. Yasuko Namba was there to climb the last of the “seven summits.” Mailman Doug Hansen came to give the summit one final crack. Texan Beck Weathers joins the party as the assertive American voice. Two journalists had been sent on assignment. And there is a huge influx of climbers from all over the world, including Hall’s American competitor Scott Fischer.
Perhaps one of the most interesting parts of Everest is what you don’t often hear about. There’s the intensive preparation which people get to experience first hard. There is a lot of acclimatisation stages, lots of safety first precautions and a huge amount of teamwork involved. Climbing is certainly no solo sport. Nor is it one in which small risks can be taken. A decision to push your body out of the comfort zone is deadly. Anyone looking for evidence of that need only ask a climber who has summited Everest. They will tell you first hand of all the corpses which remain up there.
This comes as a result of the microclimate on Everest which can change in an instant. And change it did in 1996. The second half of the film is essentially about everyone trying to survive, from the crews at base camp to the climbers in the death zone. Does it end well or does it all end in tragedy? I’ll let you find out.
Director Baltasar Kormákur does an excellent job bringing everything together. Shooting on location across so many mountainous ranges would have been difficult. Thankfully he’s got Jason Clarke, Jake Gyllenhaal and Kiera Knightley to help him build the tension and excitement all the way up to the end.
The amazing cinematography also strikes a chord of poignancy. In a sense the audience is a crew of its own. While we may not physically climb the mountain, we experience the highs and lows everyone else does.
So get your gear ready and prepare to be inspired.
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