On May 10th 1996, a storm hit Mount Everest killing eight climbers.
It was the early days of commercial climbs and a group of mountaineers under the guidance of adventure tourism pioneer Rob Hall (Jason Clarke) were making a bid for the summit.
Amongst Hall’s team was journalist Jon Krakauer (Michael Kelly) whose bestseller Into Thin Air, forms the basis for impressive dramatic thriller Everest.
It induces a peculiar and intense variety of claustrophobia experienced most recently by cinema-goers in Alfonso Cuarón’s space-thriller Gravity.
Despite pulling off disaster-movie spectacle that drags audiences into the dizzying, suffocating realm of the climbers, Everest is best watched as a story of human ambition, will power and survival.
No stranger to this ‘survival genre’, director Baltasar Kormákur (The Deep) homes in on the durability of the climbers’ resolve in the inhospitable landscape.
Kormákur has more difficulty establishing the source of their yearning, largely due to the huge number of characters involved.
Minimal character development has its plus sides however, aiding screenwriters William Nicholson (Gladiator) and Simon Beaufoy (127 Hours) in their graceful negotiation of Into Thin Air’s biggest
The widely debated role of Russian guide Anatoli Boukreev is kept on the periphery and Everest avoids placing blame. By focussing on the storm’s magnification of earlier complications, Everest gives the mountain its due respect. The climax is bleak and distressing: empathy with its characters a testimony to the actors involved. The issue of the mountain’s rapid commercialisation bubbles beneath the surface but Everest leaves audiences free to make up their own mind.