One would think that a movie about the tragic incidents in May of 1996 on Mt. Everest would be a pretty straight forward setup; you have the climbers, the sherpas, the lack of oxygen, and the frigid temperature, and then you have the disaster that befalls the climbers in the form of a deadly storm that separates and confuses everyone. The problem with Everest, directed by Baltasar Kormakur, is that it perhaps nails the final part a little too well, because once the climbing and disaster starts things take a nosedive both on screen and off as you desperately try to keep up with the unnecessarily complicated plot which ultimately makes the movie feel more like a disaster in itself than it has any right to be.
The first 20 minutes of the film primarily serves to introduce us to the enormous cast which includes more star power than is probably necessary for the film. This is the first indicator that the film is too ambitious because when you have Jason Clarke, John Hawkes, Josh Brolin, Jake Gyllenhaal, Sam Worthington, Keira Knightley, Robin Wright, Michael Kelly, and Emily Watson all crammed into a single two hour movie along with a large number of other characters who all have dialogue, it simply becomes too bloated for coherency or care for the majority of the characters. Things get worse once the climbing starts because everyone—aside from those at the camps—don hoods, masks, and the snow blinds much of their faces making it difficult to recognize anyone unless you remember who was wearing what.
When the storm hits, things get both better and worse. The film definitely delivers on its promise of a tragic disaster with tense climbs, snow storms that are made a little more realistic in IMAX 3D along with the already frigid theater temperature, and the literally overwhelming sound of wind that makes you feel like you’re coming out of a rock concert once it subsides. These scenes are exciting and terrifying, made all the more intense by the fact that these events actually happened. So yes, the disaster is done quite well, but considering all of the characters involved, a lot of the tragedies come so suddenly without much significance or resonance that those involved are lost in the flurry.
The dialogue is also made indecipherable by the storm in these scenes, making it difficult to follow the weirdly structured plot that tries to hint at all of the possible ways the tragedy could have more or less been prevented. This becomes a major issue before the storms hit because it is so vague and unnecessary that you wonder why it is even being given as much attention as it received. You can’t deny that it is a spectacle to behold, though, as we see the hikers against the backdrop of the gorgeous mountain ranges along with a majestic score by Dario Marianelli.
Everest did not need to set itself up with such an enormous mountain to climb in order to entertain audiences. A simple story about the disaster would’ve sufficed, but trying to be as ambitious as it was ultimately proved to be the same problem that befell some of the hikers. Everest isn’t a bad movie—it just tries to be too much of one for its own good.