Everest

Everest ★★★★★

I'm surprised to see I'm a minority when it comes to Everest, but despite that I still found it to be a wonderful film. Based on the events of the 1996 Mount Everest disaster and Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air, Everest is a film that shows just how terrible everything can go when 1) there is bad communication, and 2) man does not respect nature.

Mount Everest is a terrifying mountain. She takes countless lives each year but remains a climber's dream goal. To reach the top of her is to quite literally reach the top of the world. It's impressive. It's extremely difficult. It's what some would never in their life do and what some dream of doing.

For Rob Hall and his crew, this was an everyday thing. Their company, Adventure Consultants, was responsible for helping a fair number of people "summit" Mount Everest. The year of 1996 was supposed to be no different. With 8 clients under his belt (including journalist Jon Krakauer), Hall was determined to get them all to the top (namely Doug Hansen, who was attempting this a second time, and Yasuko Namba, who'd climbed six of the seven summits at the time).

Unfortunately, the weather on a mountain that is 29,029 feet high is unforgiving. In the morning their chances of summiting looked great, but by two in the afternoon everything was swiftly heading downhill. Their was miscommunication and confusion (some of which is not featured in the film (i.e. the sherpas not exchanging O2 tanks because they thought they were already full, therefore leaving O2 stashes with empty tanks)), and there was too much determination in the climbers vs. the severity of the weather.

If you know nothing of the 1996 Everest disaster than the following bits are spoilers, but it's an easy Google search. While I knew nothing of it going into Everest, I realize now that it may have made the movie marginally less stressful.

The amount of things that went wrong in the events of the 1996 disaster are countless. For one, Rob never should have gone back to the summit with Doug. He essentially signed his death certificate at that point. It's explained briefly in the film, but at a certain point on the mountain your body is dying. As Rob says: No one can live at the cruising altitude of a 747. But Rob helps Doug summit, and this essentially pushes their time back much too far.

Beck has a problem with his eyes and sits exposed for hours waiting for Rob to come back down the mountain, having heard the instructions wrong. Originally he was supposed to wait 30 minutes and if his eyes didn't clear he was to go back down with the sherpas Rob would send to check up on him. Instead, Beck waited for hours. He was there when the storm hit and only began to descend with Yasuko and her companions when they explained there was no possible way to summit with the storm.

Scott Fischer, the lead Mountain Madness guide, was able to summit shortly after Rob and his crew despite exhaustion from practically running back and forth between camps. He'd been told to sit this summit out and rest, but was adamant about reaching the top. Despite health problems and a growing weakness, he did it.

Alongside these stubborn climbers were numerous delays that halted the progress of the climb, which may have gone smoothly otherwise. There were no fixed ropes set by the sherpas and climbing guides when the teams reached the Balcony, which caused about an hour in delays. And then later, when reaching the Hillary Step, the climbers again discovered that there were no fixed ropes for them to use. This was another hour long wait while the lines were fixed.

At this point, all 33 climbers were bottlenecked at the Hillary Step, and a few of the climbers even turned back toward Camp IV for fear of running out of oxygen. But many pushed on since the Hillary Step is at 28,740 ft. and the summit is a little over 29,000 ft. It's quite literally right there.

Because of delays, Rob and his team summited shortly after the 2:00 mark and were cutting it rather close. By 3:00 the weather was looking a little on the dangerous side (snowfall, waning light). From there, a massive storm hit that wrecked the mission and cost 8 lives.

There is a lot of beautiful cinematography in Everest. The acting is great. The cast is well-known. There was quite a bit put into this movie. But I think the graphics and the flare and all of that are for the first time second rate to the story. Everest is emotional because it's the events of 1996's disaster. It's sad. Even I, a person that doesn't get particularly emotional during films, was in tears when Rob called his wife to have what would be their last conversation.

This may be one of the longest movie reviews I've ever written, but it's for a good reason. I didn't watch Everest expecting a fast-paced, intense action story. I watched it expecting exactly what I got: the recounting of a mission gone awry despite its climbers best efforts, and the emotional toll an unforgiving mountain can take on its climbers and their family. Everest is one of my favorite films.

5 stars