The movie “Everest” works if you consume it as if you were to take a shower outside on a hot summer day: Just let the water flow, don’t think too much! Then you’ll really enjoy the 3-D dolly shots which were filmed in Nepal: for instance from above down to the suspension bridge that crosses the river Dudh Kosi in dizzy heights near Namche Bazar or the view of the Western Cwm, the “Valley of Silence”, above the Khumbu Icefall. In this case you’ll likely find the movie’s story about the disaster on Everest in 1996, when eight climbers were killed in a storm in the summit area, exciting. And you’ll probably stand up from your cinema seat after two hours with the feeling of having been well entertained and seen a cinematic well-made mountain action drama. It only becomes problematic if you take the note at the beginning of the film seriously: “Based on a true story”.
Too many dramas for two hours
There is hardly another mountain disaster about which so much has been published as about that on Everest in the spring of 1996. Jon Krakauer‘s book “Into thin air” became a bestseller worldwide. But other involved climbers started writing too, such as the Russian Anatoli Boukreev who disagreed with Krakauer’s version on many points. There were accusations here and there. The story is complex: A melange of weather conditions, tactical mistakes of the mountain guides and the lack of climbing skills among some clients of the commercial operators led to the disaster. During the storm in the summit area, many dramas played simultaneously, each of them would have delivered alone enough material for a two-hour movie: such as the incredible survival story of Beck Weathers, the rescue attempts of Anatoli Boukreev, who set off again and again from the South Col to search for the missing climbers, or Rob Hall‘s radio call with his pregnant wife Jan Arnold in New Zealand before he froze to death (Hear below what Jan told me about the call when I met her in Kathmandu in 2003).
That’s the weakness of the movie: The reasons for the accident in 1996 were so complex, there were so many persons involved, and it happened so much during the storm that it is simply impossible to cover all the details and aspects in a two-hour movie. But that’s exactly what the director Baltasar Kormákur seems to have tried. Everything is somehow touched or hinted, but nothing is really deepened. For example the film suggests a conflict between the Sirdars of the various groups by showing two Sherpas with sullen faces who obviously do not want to cooperate. Why? Don’t they like each other? Where are the other Sherpas? Or this scene: Suddenly we learn that there are no fixed ropes at two key points in the summit area – cut – a Sherpa is shown pulling a female client with a short rope upwards. Who are they? Should this Sherpa really fix the ropes at the “Balcony” and the “Hillary Step”?
There are real Hollywood stars among the actors: Josh Brolin, Jake Gyllenhaal, Keira Knightley, Robin Wright and Emily Watson, to list just a few. But they get little opportunity to develop their roles properly – simply because the film wants to cover too much rather than focusing on single aspects. That leads to the one or other misleading picture. So Gyllenhaal plays the US guide Scott Fischer, who died in the accident, admittedly with a great deal of verve. But the “real” Fischer was probably more than an often drunken, crazy, narcissistic freak as he comes off in the movie. But Gyllenhaal has just not enough scenes to draw a more differentiated picture of Fischer.
Always wind and avalanches
Speaking of little differentiated: If you believe the movie, there is virtually no time on Everest without wind, storm, avalanches or collapsing seracs – as if Everest was not spectacular enough without this dramatization. If the conditions were really like that, there would not have been almost 7,000 successful ascents since 1953.
Enough moaning. Maybe I am just dealing too much with high-altitude mountaineering and what is happening at the highest mountain on earth. Just go to the movies (cinema release on 18 September) and let “Everest” entertain you! Then you will probably enjoy it. Just think of the outside shower! 😉
Jan Arnold about her last call to Rob Hall (recorded in 2003)
Date4. September 2015 | 12:57
TagsBoukreev, Brolin, Disaster 1996, Gyllenhall, Kneightley, Kormakur, Krakauer, Mount Everest, Movie, Rob Hall, Scott Fischer, Watson, Wrigth