Movie Review: Everest

Survival. At the most basic level, beyond our emotions and thoughts, survival is what resides. It is a simple and yet extreme notion. It is a brash concept and at times a heartless theme because survival can lead to cannibalism and such. It is a fire we all have inside us and it is one that is hard to combat.

In Everest, we will see a journey of experts and everyday men and women as they test their wills against the worst nature has to offer.

At least that is what we are left to assume. There is a specific scene cataloged in the script where Jon Krakauer, whose novel this film is loosely based on, asks these regular Joes why they want to climb Everest. The room remains silent. Eventually one character will say he talked to a group of kids in a school and wants to prove to them that if he can do the impossible, they can, too. Another will say he feels composed on the mountain, an idea I struggle to accept since he suffers in the cold for the remainder of the film.

This is a missed opportunity for director Baltasar Kormakur, who directed the buddy cop film 2 Guns, starring Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg. There are a lot of people who do not climb mountains and a large majority of them have never considered climbing one of the seven summits let alone Everest. That leaves the film with an uneducated and uninformed audience who knows little about the motivations or emotions involved with such a trek and yet the writing that can hook the audience in is left vague and to compound the problem, shooed under the rug. Removed from the thrill and rush that climbers may or may not receive from this film, the payoff of Everest is unclear if not non-existing.

This makes Everest‘s debut all the more depressing because at the beginning of 2016, the film’s eventual release was swarming with Oscar buzz. Its cast of Oscar-nominated actors Josh Brolin, Jake Gyllenhaal and actress Keira Knightley rose eyes and the visual spectacle that was betrothed for the screen was enticing.

While the film can be given a pat on the back for recording the biggest September worldwide IMAX opening with $7.2 million, it’s just as worthy, if not more so, to mention how far this film is from the cinematic mountain it’s trying to climb.

I saw this film in 3D and while the landscape is visceral and the visuals are inspiring, the hunger is there. This is Everest, one of the globe’s most enticing and dangerous endeavors. Surely there is more to offer than this.

Everest will make you feel the cold, and you’ll get chills down your spine, but they are the same chills you will get down your spine driving on the highway with your window down. It is not a tingle set aside for this film alone like it should be.

The tone changes whenever the plot requires it. Danger will set in but will soon flip to achievement when the group reaches the summit and then flip to something else in time for the next chapter of the story. Like Black Mass, which also received some Oscar buzz this past spring, the sincerity is absent and the tension is molded rather than birthed naturally.

The glamour and chill is there, but the tone that should accompany them is not. A very basic technique Kormakur samples is removing music from the film, instead allowing the silence to play to our ears. He lets our minds take hold of our emotions. This play requires us to feel connected to some partition of this film and since the motives of this expedition are never addressed, we find our hands grasping at air.

With a plot playing second fiddle to the true happenings of the story and tonal shifts too rampant, our cast of Oscar-nominated actors attempt to derive empathy from its audience. Connection to an audience can save a film. If audiences develop a care for the characters, they’ll be better engaged in the illusion of loneliness and cold that’s trying to be aroused here.

The script, however, especially in the dialogue department, competes with Everest for the Most-Barren-Item-On-Screen-Award. The dialogue is a sham and never diverts to themes of life, the pursuit of endurance, the empowerment of the human will, or the will to fight. Everything in this story is plot-based and call me cynical, but this plot is boring.

The characters, coupled with the writing, are the most downtrodden element of this debacle. Jake Gyllenhaal, who’s demonstrated great range in the recent films Prisoners and Nightcrawler, is flat-out ignored. Josh Brolin is given little screen time and Knightley is a sideshow. Jason Clarke is the high point of the acting gigs in Everest, but that isn’t saying much. The inability to originate emotion leaves an insensitive audience leagues from where the film should have wanted them to be: close and personal, engulfed in the snow and bitter wind.

Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.  

90-100  It’s a great movie and definitely one worth buying. (Avengers: Age of UltronThe AvengersThe BabadookInterstellarChappie)

80-89   It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (The Cable GuyThe Cabin in the WoodsTears of the SunEdge of TomorrowThe Amazing Spider-Man 2)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too. (Black Mass, Enemy at the GatesAnchorman 2: The Legend ContinuesLeon: The ProfessionalEnemy)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (Terminator: GenisysBlack SheepTwistedParkerHouse at the End of the Street)

50-59   This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (HerculesThe SentinelMad Max: Fury RoadBlitzThe Punisher)

40-49   This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (The Lost BoysZombeaversCrankErasedI, Frankenstein)

30-39   Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (CenturionPlanet of the ApesStonadosRedemptionPride and Prejudice)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (The VisitThe Fantastic FourThe Boy Next DoorThe ColonyIn the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale)

0-19      Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (CyborgOutcastSabotageGallowwalkersTucker & Dale vs. Evil)

My score for Everest: 57.

With a small clap for the visual department set aside, a ride down the highway with your sleeves rolled up might bring as much cold and indifference as Everest will force upon you. Kormakur’s youth as a director is exploited, leaving more experienced Hollywood thrills taking instructions from a novice storyteller. Had a greater emphasis been put on the crisp detail and magnitude of Everest, it might not have been so easily noticed, but as it stands, Everest is more of a climb for the people who made it then the audiences who watched it.

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