You have to be a little nuts to want to climb Mt. Everest. It’s a good kind of nuts; the kind that’s sent people to the moon and the bottom of the ocean, but it’s still nuts. I don’t think that mindset of the climbers and of the hardships involved in actually following in the footsteps of Sir Edmund Hillary and summitting Everest have ever been better captured than in the self-titled film. However, if you go past the surface of the film, there are problems, the depth of which really depends on what you want or are expecting the film to deliver.
Everest, shot by the family friendly folks at Walden Media (same company that did the Narnia films), captures the majesty of the world’s tallest peak with fantastic cinematography and an extremely strong cast full of Oscar nominated actors and actresses. The story of the film adapts Jon Krakauer’s book Into Thin Air, which chronicles the tragic string of events that left many experienced climbers dead in the wake of storm and confusion. If you don’t know any more about those events than what the film tells you, then you’ll walk away with a good movie experience.
Here’s the issue I, and others have with the film: it tells the story from the standpoint of one of the many companies that by 1996 (when the film was set) were herding ambitious climbers up Everest. This commercialization of the mountain led to serious traffic bottlenecks in literally the worst place on Earth on which to have them. Krakauer, who has slammed the film, is a character in the film (played by House of Cards’ Michael Kelly) details in his book exactly what he thinks went wrong, and how action and inaction by certain parties cost others their lives. Krakauer’s account, in turn, has been slammed by Anatoli Boukreev (also a character in the film), who wrote his own book about the incident. The bottom line is: the film makes no effort to place any blame on anyone and makes the series of events seem like a tragic set of circumstances more than a failure by any parties involved.
It’s an extremely well-done film, and I’m sure it looked even better on IMAX, so I still recommend it. If you really want to get into the real story, I’d highly recommend Krakauer’s book (or really anything he’s ever written as he’s one of the best non-fiction writers alive) to get a deeper understanding of just what it’s like to try to attempt one of the most difficult things on the planet and to have that attempt go horribly, horribly wrong.