Star Rating:

Everest (2015)

Actors: Jake Gyllenhaal, Elizabeth Debicki

Release Date: Friday 18th September 2015

Genre(s): Adventure, Drama

Running time: US minutes

K2. Touching The Void. Cliffhanger. The Summit. I like a good mountain movie, me.

Something about the dizzy heights, the determination in the face of adversity, the fact that one wrong foot can kill you and the person you’re tied to, the achievement – and the euphoria – when the top is reached.

But the question that’s on lips of everyone in the audience goes largely unanswered here: Why do this? There is a token gesture to get to the nub of this when reporter Jon Krakauer (House of Cards’ Michael Kelly) asks the same of the assembled mountaineers on the night before the leave base camp for the ill-fated 1996 expedition of Everest. “Because it’s there,” is one reply, while cash-strapped Doug (John Hawkes), making his second and last attempt, hopes to inspire his kids.

But it’s not something that greatly troubles director Baltasar Kormákur, who is calling the shots here because of the punitive plot of The Deep and the icy Jar City (and not because of Contraband and 2 Guns). Instead, Kormákur concentrates on two jobs in this based-on-a-true-story drama: inducing acrophobia and ensuring we’re engaged with the characters when it gets difficult to tell one from another once they’re disguised by puffy jackets, hats, glasses and beards. Done and done.

When expedition leader Rob Hall (Clarke), “100% Texan!” Beck Weathers (Brolin), and hippy Scott (Gyllenhaal) get into trouble at “cruising altitude for a 747”, there’s a connection, helped along by Hall and Weathers having wives back home; it’s a shame, however, that a pregnant Knightley and stoic Robin Wright have little to do but wait around looking worried or offer blubbing words of support via satellite phone at the darkest hour. Sam Worthington, another team leader, never gets out of base camp – both narratively and performance wise.

These minor characters – Emily Watson among them - are dwarfed by the spectacle as Kormákur’s eye is drawn to the impressive scenery. First there are colourful villages that the expedition troop through on their way to base camp, and the awe-inspiring swoops through ravines and along cliff faces. Then there’s the high angle shots of the cast near precipices and Brolin inching along a shaky ladder that’s precariously perched across a deep crevasse.

There’s not a lot of meat on its bones but Everest remains entertaining.