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Thursday, September 17, 2015

Everest (IMAX 3D)

Leaving you (or me, at the very least) cold in more ways than one...

To adequately review Everest, you kind of have to look at the film from two almost disconnected levels. The first - and this is something that really can be best appreciated in 3D IMAX - on a purely technical level, the second as a piece of storytelling. As you may well have guessed by now, Everest passes with flying colours on the first point, but things look a whole lot more dubious on the second.

Put simply, from a purely aesthetic and technical point of view, Everest is nothing less than spectacular. Between its fully immersive soundscapes and the appropriate crispness of even the smallest sounds, the film obviously calls for the best sound system imaginable to appreciate the magnitude of the experience on offer here. Even more than its auditory delights (and terrors!) though, the film is just breathtaking to look at. I was disappointed by the lack of IMAX aspect ratio, as the added height would have definitely added to the dizzying experience, but the huge screen gives a great sense of the magnitude of the eponymous mountain and the unutterable beauty of the great panoramic vistas of the Himalayas. It's absolutely worth seeing Everest for this alone - though I think it goes without saying that you do need a pretty killer cinematic setup to truly appreciate it.

Sadly though, bringing to mind something like Avatar, it really does only work as a piece of spectacle. Not that that's anything to be sneezed at but, considering the material with which the film is working, it's impossible not to be disappointed by how anemic a piece of storytelling it is.

The plot itself is based quite closely on real events, where a group of mountaineers embark on the loftiest pilgrimage of all, but things go very, very wrong on the way. The problem, though, is that no matter how tragic these events are, they're also the least interesting thing by far about this particular story. Taken purely on these terms, Everest is really nothing more than a disaster movie but it's one that it is a hell of a lot less fun than something like San Andreas - especially if it is to keep any measure of respect for the real people who went through it.    

But then, perhaps it is precisely this need to respect the real people involved in the story that ultimately cuts Everest off at its knees (or is that at its base camp?). The characters are all kept respectfully affable, if quite shallow, and the film constantly seems afraid to ask the questions of them that seem obvious after what happened. The question of why these people want to climb Everest does come up, as does a particularly poetic, if not entirely convincing, answer, but the bigger questions are conspicuous by their absence.

The film doesn't even question whether it was worth taking on such an undertaking in light of what actually happened, let alone what could have happened, and it certainly never once questions the basic psychology behind what would drive a person to do this in the first place. Most pertinently, is it not the height of responsibility to pursue what is ultimately a selfish goal when you have a family or a pregnant wife waiting for you at home?

These are questions that wouldn't only have provided the film with some very much needed depth but would also have given the film some much needed drive, while at the same time giving us a bit more insight into characters with whom we're supposed to relate. Again, I understand why director Baltasar Kormakur and screenwriters William Nicholson and Simon Beaufoy (incidentally, considering the latter's track record, it's extremely surprising to see just how flat the dialogue is throughout the film) have decided not to tackle such potentially disrespectful questions, as I feel guilty for even bringing them up in this review. But without them, there really isn't much to hang onto and for all that the film does its best to tug on the old heartstring, I was left shockingly unmoved by the plight of these (real!) people.

Nice landscapes, though...

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