Everest

(M) Starring: Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin, Jake Gyllenhaal

In 1996, unknown to most people around the world, the greatest climbing tragedy that had occurred on Mount Everest*. During freak blizzard conditions, eight people died on various expeditions that traversed the sides of the highest mountain on the planet. There have been various accounts of the events and different opinions of who was to blame for the tragic situations. Prominent accounts are found in books by journalist Jon Krakauer and climber Anatoli Boukreev, who survived the deadly climb. Regardless of the controversies that came from the various stories, though, the heart of the true-life disaster bodes well for a cinematic adventure.

Baltasar Kormákur directs the big-screen tale of the fateful days experienced by two primary expedition teams led by Rob Bell (Jason Clarke) and Scott Fisher (Jake Gyllenhaal). The climbing story weaves through the competitive culture of mountaineering and the sacrifices that men and women undertake for these excursions. From an adventure journalist to a determined Texan and a humble postman, the back stories of the various climbers help to humanise their Everest expedition. The door is opened to the motivations each person had for participating.

After leaving the basecamp, every step leads to life and death choices that affect every member of the expedition. The effectiveness and depth of the mountain climbing styles is shown in the different leaders, but regardless of their methods, the teams are at the mercy of the weather and the mountain’s terrain. Bell and Fisher were experienced mountaineers, but they carried with them their own personal flaws and had to manage the strengths and weaknesses of each soul that was under their charge. Everest provides a dramatic look at the magnificence of the mountain as well as the unforgiving nature of the journey before the climbers.

 

Mountains have played an active part in cinematic history, usually as a goal for mankind to conquer and an adversary to all who try to attempt to traverse their exterior. Some of these films have been better than others, but Everest delivers an experience that manages to reach the summit of expectation. Kormákur conveys the majesty of the legendary mountain, the tragic secrets it holds within its layers of ice and snow and the raw human desire to conquer its peak.

The cinematography is an incredible visual experience and Kormakur does capitalise on the tragic, but majestic elements of the mountain. Each character brings a story to the mountain and some are more compelling than others, but the human interest tales all add to the drama that unfolds. Jason Clarke and Jake Gyllenhaal portray the contradictory leaders well and show the value of an effective leader. Josh Brolin, John Hawkes, Keira Knightley, Sam Worthington, Emily Watson and Robin Wright round out an amazing supporting cast for this tale of the human spirit.

The story is compelling, but it is unavoidable that it suffers through a slower pace because of the multitude of characters. This is not the fault of the direction, but causes some significant lags between the key climbing scenes. This journey shows that some stories end in tragedy as opposed to triump, but Everest‘s underlying realism makes for a fascinating story within the human experience.

Coming out of the cinema, the discussion I had was around the motivation for climbing the mountain. What is it in humankind to seek to achieve something that seems to be beyond our reach? There are so many books and seminars about achieving goals and dreams. Yet, why do we even desire to ‘climb the next mountain?’

Much of the inner desire comes from seeing something bigger than ourselves. Not to get overly spiritual, but thinking that we were made for something more than the day to day existence. Some may say it is human will, but maybe the consideration can be explained in being created that way by a creator.

In the 29th chapter of Jeremiah 29 of the Bible, God  talks of knowing the plans for us, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give us a future and a hope. Could it be that we seek something bigger, because we ultimately are seeking after God? It might be the last thing some consider, but even if it is the last thing, shouldn’t it at least be a consideration? The consideration that we desire something beyond ourselves, because there is a God that made us that way, come on, be brave and at least consider it.

* Other events have occurred since 1996, but this was the worst event up until that point in history.    

Leaving the cinema…

I still do not want to climb mountains, especially after seeing this film. Everest was captivating and confronting. It going to see and hopefully will challenge the audience to consider some of the bigger questions of life.

What are the bigger questions to consider from this film? 

  1. What does the future hold? (The book of Revelation, James 4:13-16)
  2. Can we solve our own problems? (Proverbs 3:5, Philippians 4:6)
  3. What does the Bible say about achieving our dreams? (Jeremiah 29:11, Matthew 6:33)

Russell Matthews works for City Bible Forum Sydney and is a film blogger

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