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“Everest” is the pinnacle of IMAX entertainment (movie review)

By Jeff Boudreauxeverest

Survival takes center-stage in “Everest,” the staggering true story of two expeditions and their collective fight against a debilitating snowstorm in 1996. From its terrific cast (which includes Josh Brolin, Jake Gyllenhaal, John Hawkes, and Sam Worthington, just to name a few) to the breathtaking scenery in Nepal, this riveting docudrama by action director Baltasar Kormákur (“Contraband,” “2 Guns”) elevates the genre to new heights, providing us with one of the year’s best films thus far.

A group of adventurers, led by mountain guide Rob Hall (Jason Clarke of “Terminator: Genisys”), embark on a journey to the highest peak on planet Earth – Mt. Everest. At this particular time of year in May, there are several groups of people attempting to “summit,” one group of which is led by Hall’s friendly rival Scott Fischer (Jake Gyllenhaal). On the gradual climb to the top, oxygen becomes increasingly scarcer (if you don’t have extra on hand) and the human body is inclined to fail. As a result, Hall prepares his customers – such as Beck Weathers (Josh Brolin), Doug Hansen (John Hawkes), and journalist Jon Krakauer (Michael Kelly) for the challenge ahead by undergoing several weeks of acclimatizing themselves to the thin atmosphere. everest_movie-wide

Hall and Fischer’s factions decide to team up for their ascent up the great mountain but unfortunately, all of the training these individuals undergo cannot properly prepare them for the natural horrors they must endure when a terrible snowstorm cuts off access to the climbers. Meanwhile, the ground crews led by Guy Cotter (Sam Worthington) and Helen Wilton (Emily Watson) grow increasingly helpless to save them as the spouses of Hall and Weathers (portrayed by Keira Knightley and Robin Wright respectively) wait with bated breath back home.Everest-Movie-Mountain-White-Clouds-WallpapersByte-com-1600x900

With some of the most magnificent cinematography that I have ever seen, “Everest” is a shoe-in to garner an Academy Award for Salvatore Totino (“The Da Vinci Code,” “Frost/Nixon”) in that particular category at next year’s Oscars telecast. The unadulterated beauty of the images in this film provides a stark contrast with the horrific calamity of death at the hands of Mother Nature. Director Kormákur formulates the action in his film to conversely rise as the groups begin their descent on the mountain, crafting an overwhelming pathos-laden narrative as viewers are kept on the edge of their seats.

As much as I enjoyed this fact-based drama, I have to point out a mind-blowing gaffe near the end of the film, showing a supposedly deceased character clearly breathing and moving his head, and by an accomplished actor no less! I don’t think it’s any secret, nor do I need a “spoiler alert” warning to say that a number of characters in this film die. It’s an historic event. We see individuals frozen to the ground with great propensity. So when I say that the dead guy was moving, this is a pretty big deal. With that being said, it surprisingly doesn’t really detract from the enjoyment that the other two hours provide.

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Jason Clarke’s portrayal of Hall is an absolute role of a lifetime, as the actor has always been basically an afterthought as far as I’m concerned. I can say with all honesty that he’s garnered himself a fan that he didn’t have before for his dynamic rendering of the heroic guide. Likewise, Josh Brolin and John Hawkes both go against type, with each actor transmitting a humanistic realism that is unlike anything I’ve seen them do.

From the man-made footbridges of Nepal to the great mountain itself, we are kept awestruck at these visual wonders and can emphasize with a seemingly exhilarating experience such as this that people wish to undertake. Not once did I think of these individuals as daredevils who don’t warrant sympathy, but rather real human beings who lost their lives doing something they’ve waited a lifetime for. Like no other film in recent memory, “Everest” places the audience firsthand into the perilous fight against the elements for survival. Viewing the film in IMAX 3D as intended, provides an intense motion picture viewing experience that we can’t help but become embroiled in. I’m just glad that I can experience it from the comfort and safety of a theater seat.

***1/2 (three and a half out of four stars)

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