Preview: Everest

This September the mountaineering movie is reaching another peak; after successes such as Touching the Void (2003) and North Face (2008), the latest adventure film to attempt the summit is Baltasar Kormákur’s Everest.

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The film is a collaboration of three different cultures: the American and British production and scripting will be brought together by an award-winning Icelandic director. Kormákur, over his fifteen years of directing, has enjoyed a great deal of success. His filmography includes almost every generation of cinema, from noir-inspired A Little Trip to Heaven (2005), to bittersweet love-story White Night Wedding (2008), via the all-American action crime thriller 2 Guns (2013). Kormákur’s recent success The Deep (2012), nominated for the Best Foreign Language Oscar, is a disaster movie drawn from a true story and is perhaps what set him up to attempt the challenge of Everest.

From the trailer, the intensely personal battles for survival in increasingly hopeless circumstances appear to focus on almost clichéd Hollywood emotion.

Running on high tension and dramatic filmmaking, Everest will likely follow the conventions of the classic disaster movie. The characters are no doubt charming, noble and loaded with affecting backstories to make our journey with them just that bit more emotionally involving. From the trailer, the intensely personal battles for survival in increasingly hopeless circumstances appear to focus on almost clichéd Hollywood emotion. The ‘calm before the storm’ period will craft the relationships, and as the trailer indicates, explain the reasons behind each character’s ascent of Everest. Generating this sympathy is a crucial part of any disaster movie; it is needed later on to fuel the emotion when the tension is cranked up and disaster strikes. A strong element of sympathy is induced by the mounting terrors of the families left behind – the film could even be a The Day After Tomorrow type scenario where family love becomes not only the driving force of the characters but also the force behind the film as a whole.

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With the combination of British writers and an Icelandic director dramatising a true account, this typically overblown style might instead shape up to be a thoroughly realistic and sympathetic ‘disaster movie’.

On the other hand, this melodramatic style specific to disaster movies will perhaps take on a softer tone with Everest. The film follows the true story of the 1996 Mount Everest disaster where two groups of climbers attempting the summit were caught in a fatal blizzard. With the combination of British writers and an Icelandic director dramatising a true account, this typically overblown style might instead shape up to be a thoroughly realistic and sympathetic ‘disaster movie’ where cliché and hyperbole don’t feature too heavily. Basing the film on a true story also heightens the atmosphere of the unknown: will the characters follow the fate of their real life inspirations or avoid their destiny? High hopes are held for Everest: partly due to the strong cast, which includes Jake Gyllenhaal, Josh Brolin, Robin Wright and Keira Knightley, and the power of influential production company Universal Pictures.

The film was chosen for the opening-night slot of the Venice Film Festival, an event recently graced by successes such as Birdman (2014) and Gravity (2013), an indicator of Everest’s award and box-office prospects perhaps? Although from the gripping and action-focused trailer Everest might appear to fall into the category of the typical disaster movie, the film’s true-story inspiration and the blend of European and American style could easily boost it to another peak altogether. If nothing else this film has all the right equipment to see it become a classic of its type; and we can easily expect to feel exhilarated, moved, terrified and inspired all in the space of 150 minutes.

By Anna Whealing

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