This star-powered movie vehicle never really scales the heights intimated by its exciting premise – only offering competent drama fare by the time the snow settles.
There’s arguably too much going on in Icelandic director Baltasar Kormakur’s (2 Guns) re-telling of simultaneous expeditions on the world’s tallest mountain that go horribly wrong – resulting in the deaths of multiple climbers in 1996.
While the film is undoubtedly impressive due to the breathtaking visuals, its material also hampers it – to literally the point you’re not sure who is who when things start to go awry.
Experienced climber Rob Hall (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ Jason Clarke) – who’s just left behind his pregnant wife (Keira Knightley) in Australia – undertakes a seemingly straightforward trip up the peak of Everest, with two other expeditions, including one led by Jake Gyllenhaal’s maverick guide Scott Fischer, taking place at the same time, causing ‘traffic’ at some of the mountain’s pivotal points.
Hall’s task is further hampered by some of his team – including wealthy businessman Beck Weathers (Josh Brolin), Japanese female climber Yasuko Namba (Naoko Mori) and Doug Hansen (John Hawkes) – having individual goals to reach the summit.
For Namba, she’s trying to complete all seven of the major peaks, with Hansen making his final attempt to conquer Everest after a previous failure – which puts added pressure on Hall to appease all the climbers.
But when a violent storm strikes and engulfs the adventurers in one of the fiercest blizzards to ever hit the famous mountain – all the climbers are challenged with the harshest conditions imaginable.
Unfortunately – even though of course it’s based on true events – if you’re expecting a Vertical Limit or Cliffhanger experience it’s not that type of film. No real death-defying situations in terms of hanging off cliffs, or movie-type falling to your death through ravines – as it’s actually the elements that is the real killer here. So the expected heart-stopping moments are surprisingly at a premium.
Also the romantic sub-plots with Clarke/Knightley and Brolin with his wife – played by Forrest Gump’s Robin Wright – don’t really resonate like they should, and feel more tagged on than anything.
So despite the potential for what could have been something great, it all ends up being a bit ho-hum – and generally disappointing – with a superb cast, that bar Clarke and Brolin, play second fiddle to Kormakur trying his best to keep his snow globe from cracking.
It’s not without it’s moments – and is a long way from a disaster – but this never really climbs above mediocrity at any point.
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Gavin Miller[youtube id=”5ZQVpPiOji0″ width=”600″ height=”350″]
Cast: Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin, Jake Gyllenhaal, Emily Watson, Sam Worthington, John Hawkes, Martin Henderson, Michael Kelly, Elizabeth Debicki, Naoko Mori, Keira Knightley & Robin Wright
Running Time: 2 Hrs 1 Min
Director: Baltasar Kormakur