Set for its world premiere tonight as the opener of the Venice Film Festival, Everest is the kind of big-screen adventure picture Hollywood used to make regularly but seems to have forgotten about in the rush to comic book movies. This true story based on the ill-fated 1996 expeditions to the peak of the imposing Mount Everest has, as I say in my video review (click the link above), been brought to life with stunning clarity by director Baltasar Kormakur in a movie tailor-made for the big-screen glory of Imax and 3D. In fact, I don’t think I have ever seen a movie better suited for these formats.  In other words folks, don’t watch this one on your keychain.

pete hammond review badgeWith a script from William Nicholson and Simon Beaufoy though, the filmmakers have not turned this into a new-age disaster picture but rather emphasized the brave and courageous human element so inherent to the telling of this tale. Although there is plenty of action and thrills along the way, this tragic story is given life through the personal stories of these adventurers who took on the adventure of a lifetime. Some even made it to that inpenetrable peak, but it was the way back that proved fatal for many as weather conditions harshened to the point of catastrophe.

The film focuses on these two expeditions simultaneously. One is led by Rob Hall (Jason Clarke), head of New Zealand’s Adventure Consultants, as he leads a group including Beck Weathers (Josh Brolin), Doug Hansen (John Hawkes), Guy Cotter (Sam Worthington) and, among others, a reporter (Michael Kelly) embedded with the group to tell the story of their climb. Scott Fischer (Jake Gyllenhaal) of Mountain Madness is leading the other expedition. It is rather remarkable how well Kormakur manages to make all of them three-dimensional human beings, particularly when all hell breaks loose on the mountain. But that is also what makes the movie work as well as it does: You care for this group.  Although the main female characters don’t have as much to do, both Keira Knightley as  Hall’s pregnant wife and Robin Wright as Weathers’ wife add warmth, as does a spirited Emily Watson who plays Helen, the coordinator for Hall’s expedition.

Shot in Nepal and the Italian Alps, cinematographer Salvatore Totino has a lot to work with and he makes the most of it. The technical aspects of this grueling film are superb throughout, including top-notch special effects and sound work. The movie should be a real player in the crafts categories of the Oscars, but I have a feeling it could go even further than that. Hopefully audiences will want to see this terrific film which represents the best of moviemaking at its most daunting.

Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Nicky Kentish Barnes, Brian Oliver, Kormakur and Tyler Thompson were producers of the Working Title production that also counts Walden Media, Cross Creek Pictures, RVK Studios and Free State Pictures among its producing pack. Universal releases the film on September 18.

Do you plan to see Everest? Let us know what you think.