Despite a slow opening, Everest is a breathtakingly tense thriller about two separate expeditions of mountaineers racing to reach the summit of Mount Everest. With a tight two week window where weather permits groups to ascend and the ominous mountain lying before them, this well shot, dramatic thriller is heart pounding with an unconventional ending that helps it stand out. With decent cinematography and each base camp used to separate the tense climbing sections, Everest has all the makings for being a great film but its let down by some weak characterisation and a slow opening.
Based on a true story, Everest starts with a group of mountain climbers receiving their final instructions before ascending the mountain with the opening credits rolling in the foreground. The story then jumps back to show the different characters travelling to the base camp at Mount Everest, conversing about their lives. It takes around an hour to get back to the starting point of the film but once the characters begin to climb, so too does the tension and inevitable doom that hangs over the film. Inevitably, the expedition doesn’t go as planned and what turns into the trip of a lifetime, turns into a life threatening fight for survival. Its a pity that the film takes so long to get going and despite a lengthy opening to try and establish the characters, it never quite feels substantial enough to make them stand out.
There’s a great cast involved in this film but despite the star power, the only one who really stands out is mountain daredevil Scott Fischer (Jake Gyllenhaal) who’s enthusiastic performance really shines here. The rest of the cast certainly aren’t as icy as the snow-covered slopes they ascend, but they’re simply okay and never really stand out beyond the mediocre roles they play in this film.
Its worth noting here that the visual design of Everest is outstanding. Whether it be the sweeping shots of the mountain and showing the juxtaposition of the tiny humans ascending it, or the contrasting shots of base camp to higher up the mountain, there’s no denying that the cinematography is as breathless as the peak of Mount Everest itself.
Despite a slow opening and some weak characters that never really stand out, when the climb begins, Everest feels like a completely different film. Its tense, ominous shots of the characters climbing the dangerous slopes are really well shot and the ending is unexpected and feels really abrupt. That’s not to say its bad, it actually helps set the film apart from other survival films but its a pity that Everest takes so long to get into gear. Once it gets going, its dizzying heights and tense tone hang over the film making it a really solid survival flick.