Already a couple of Everest critics are complaining that despite its technical triumphs, Baltasar Kormakur’s film doesn’t deliver enough emotion. Screen Daily‘s Tim Grierson, for one, has written that it’s “oddly uninvolving — it depicts a horrific scenario in an underwhelming, distancing way.” I don’t know what Grierson is on. I was completely caught up in Everest‘s agonizingly gradual death spiral, espeically during the second half. Ten seconds after I read this I sent myself a link to Grierson’s review along with the words “what planet?”
Everest gang early today at 2015 Venice Film Festival: (l. to r.) John Hawkes, Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin, Emily Watson, Baltasar Kormakur, Jake Gyllenhaal.
Here’s a more eloquent and (if you ask me) perceptive opinion from Variety‘s Justin Chang:
“This is a movie not about a few human beings who tried to conquer a mountain, but rather a mountain that took no notice of the human beings in its midst. Kormakur doesn’t make the mistake of exalting his subjects as extraordinary individuals, or suggesting that they were obeying some sort of noble higher calling. Everest is blunt, businesslike and — as it begins its long march through the death zone — something of an achievement. The specifics don’t get any clearer, but editor Mick Audsley’s cross-cutting among the different climbing factions creates its own propulsive logic. We get to know the characters not just by their appearances and personalities, but by their different positions on the mountain, where many of them find themselves trapped as a freak storm sets in.
“Death seeps into the picture slowly, practically on tiptoe. At times it proceeds with an almost merciful swiftness, but for most of those who succumb, the process is brutally slow and drawn out: Their steps get shorter and slower, their breaths quickening into futility, and eventually the camera plants itself next to them and watches slowly as all blood, sensation and feeling drain away. With the exception of one miscalculated sequence involving a sun-dappled hallucination, Everest is strikingly unsentimental; under such cruelly elemental circumstances, the usual platitudes about perseverance and love winning the day simply cease to apply. There is only death and survival here, and the human spirit, it turns out, has little to do with any of it.”
But some people want that stirring, indominatable-human-spirit stuff in their cereal bowl, and if they don’t get it they go “waahh.”