Everest is like Black Mass: there is an extraordinary true story in there somewhere, but it’s not always so easy to tell. Now I am being a little unfair: for the most part, Everest does a very good job telling its story, providing both good character colorizations and an explanation of the numerous reasons why it is so tough to climb the world’s tallest mountain.
But narrative problems hinder it from being a truly great film. As great as Everest is at depicting activities involved in preparing for a summit push, once that push begins things go amiss. A seemingly small problem early on in the summit attempt: skipping altogether the act of evening rest and overnight sleep in Camps 1, 2, 3 and 4. It may sound a small and perhaps irrelevant omission — I take it the filmmakers felt that way — but besides missing out on a key experience of climbing nature’s biggest beast, it left the effect that the entire mountain was perhaps being climbed in one day. This confusion as to the chronology of events is accentuated by the fact that throughout the film — where chronology is less critical — the times and locations are well-captioned.
The chronology issue represents a major botch on the part of the filmmakers. Confusing the matter even more is talk at Base Camp of a “May 10” summit push — but it’s unclear if that means they are on their way from Base Camp on May 10, or if that refers only to the final day of the climb. Since we never see them sleeping on the mountain on the way up, and since captions go missing during this period, a lot of confusion is unnecessarily dealt to audience members.
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So the narration as regards chronology is not such a small problem. But what’s worse is that when things start going south, the narrative again crumbles. It’s very difficult to tell the location, condition and circumstances of the various characters at the most critical time. Iced-over bearded faces and little vocalization sometimes make it difficult even to recognize certain characters at certain times. During the time of greatest panic, one certainly understands that lives are in peril, but not clearly how so. And that is the biggest failure of Everest. I shouldn’t have to go back later and read about the events on Wikipedia to get a clear understanding of what happened, but that’s what I did.
And that’s a shame, because there’s a lot of good in this movie. Besides the positives I previously mentioned, Everest features perhaps the best use of 3D I’ve ever seen — even better than Gravity. So even with its problems, I give Everest (in 3D) a solid recommendation. 7/10