This movie had a few big flaws. The first is that three years ago we had a documentary (The Summit) that dealt with a tragedy in 2008 where 11 people died trying to climb Mount Everest. It had some recreations that were stunning, and it was powerful.
This movie deals with a 1996 tragedy that’s similar, and that’s where the second problem arises. Since the stat is that 25% of the people that attempt climbing this die, it’s going to be hard to really feel awful for their plight (even less so when we find out they paid $65,000 for the privilege).
So we get a movie with thrill seeking goofballs with facial hair that drink whiskey and say they’ll climb that mountain because…(in unison) “It’s there!”
They torture their wives that sit by the phone, and are played by talented actresses like Emily Watson and Keira Knightley, not given enough to do in the film. Well, Watson does have a face that can really convey worry.
There’s also a female climber named Yasuko Namba (Naoko Mori), who has climbed 6 of the world’s tallest summits. We’d like to know more about her backstory and less about some of the other climbers.
So we watch as some talented actors with beards get together, wondering who will die first. Will it be Josh Brolin? He’s the loud one. A Texan that shows up wearing a Bob Dole ’96 T-shirt (really?), and as “Beck Weathers” (which would be my name if I were a TV weatherman), annoys everyone around him.
What about amazing character actor John Hawkes? He’s not the good looking alpha male, but he’s a kind soul; a letter carrier that does speaking engagements at elementary schools.
There’s Jake Gyllenhaal, as rival expedition leader Scott Fischer, who likes to get drunk, sun tan without a shirt, and has a Zen vibe about him. Instead of growing out the muscles for a movie, he grew out the beard.
The film was based on the book Into Thin Air, by a journalist on this harrowing trek. Unlike A Walk in the Woods from a few weeks ago, this is at least exciting at times. There’s a powerful score, amazing cinematography from Salvatore Totino, and it’s fun in 3D IMAX.
Jason Clarke plays Rob Hall, who leads the group of climbers paying “Adventure Consultants,” and we like him immediately. He seems to know his stuff and is a rather caring sort. We understand this because Hawkes character thanks him for the discount to make a second attempt at this. Of course, one of the few times the movie has suspense, is when Hall goes against his own rules later in the movie in a scene with that character.
Adventure Consultants isn’t the only group climbing the mountain, and that’s part of the problem. Two rival companies are doing it, and this causes delays. Of course, the worst enemy is mother nature, as unforeseen storms make things difficult.
The storm is shot well and is rather chaotic, but the same problem arose that I had with Pacific Rim. That movie shot scenes of robots fighting in water and you couldn’t really see what was going on. That same problem is going on here with snow. Yes…you feel like you’re really there, but…it gets to the point where you feel like you’re watching this years Gravity. That means stunning visuals in a boring story.
Director Baltasar Kormakur is more well know to Americans for two Mark Wahlberg movies (2 Guns and Contraband, both decent for action pictures). In this, he never had me on the edge of my seat. Well, perhaps watching the guys march across a huge rickety ladder between two mountains.
The story was just a bit clunky and it was never scary enough. At two hours, watching adrenaline junkies do stupid stuff…just doesn’t hold my interest. The whole thing left me underwhelmed, despite the fact that this is a solid cast and it’s well produced.
This gets 2 stars out of 5.