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To stand on the shoulders of the world

by Tiffany Lafleur September 29, 2015
To stand on the shoulders of the world

Everest brings big-time thrills and cinematic excellence to the big screen

Your lungs gradually fill with water from lack of oxygen. Your fingers, toes and cheeks slowly succumb to frostbite. The unforgiving wind pushes and tugs as you teeter on a narrow ledge, sheer nothingness on the other side.

At one of the base camps set up on Everest, little did the crew know at this point of all of the challenges lying ahead. Photo still taken from Everest.

At one of the base camps set up on Everest, little did the crew know at this point of all of the challenges lying ahead. Photo still taken from Everest.

These are the conditions climbers must face to reach the top of Mount Everest, the highest peak on Earth: howling winds, deep, bottomless chasms, steep rocky outcrops that could give out from under your feet at any moment. In the blink of an eye, something could go horribly wrong. Stop moving and you die. But once the peak is reached, the pain, thin air and merciless cold seem like nothing compared to standing on the shoulders of the world.

That is, until you realize you have to do it all over again on the descent. Add a looming, fierce and ruthless snowstorm and you have a recipe for disaster. Everest recounts the true story of two expeditions caught in a violent blizzard as they begin their final ascent to the peak on the morning of May 10, 1996. To survive, they will have to endure some of the harshest conditions on the planet.

Close calls for long falls, hold on tight. Photo still taken from Everest.

Close calls for long falls, hold on tight. Photo still taken from Everest.

As expedition leader Rob Hall (Jason Clarke) puts it in the film: “Human beings simply aren’t built to function at the cruising altitude of a [Boeing] 747.”

Written by William Nicholson and Simon Beaufoy and directed by Baltasar Kormákur, Everest is a British-American 3D disaster drama and adventure thriller film boasting spectacular, jaw-dropping cinematic visuals, dizzying and vertigo-inducing panoramas and edge-of-your-seat, adrenaline-pumping adventure.

The movie follows Rob Hall, expedition leader for Adventure Consultants, as he prepares his clients for the grueling ascent to the peak of Mount Everest, over 8,000 metres above sea level.  As they inch closer and closer to the peak, the mystery and majesty of the summit transitions to a deadly, inhospitable terrain, testing the climbers mentally and physically.

In addition to the challenging environment, lineups for crossing ladder bridges and thin pathways cause the mountain to be overcrowded when multiple expeditions are planned for the same day. This leads to a close call when Beck Weathers—played by Josh Brolin—slips on a ladder while crossing a gorge, clinging on for dear life as he dangles precariously over nothingness.

Everest will have you clenching right along with the climbers. Photo still taken from Everest.

Everest will have you clenching right along with the climbers. Photo still taken from Everest.

Despite the harsh realities of climbing Earth’s highest peak, the movie dances around the big question—why are these climbers purposefully putting their lives at stake? What is it about Mount Everest that makes them willing to risk never seeing their families again or watching their unborn children grow up? Though the movie brings you into the gritty reality of climbing an unforgiving, indomitable cliff face, the audience is left to wonder about the initial motivation of the characters. We get snippets: Beck wants to escape the dark cloud of dread he felt at home. Doug Hansen (John Hawkes) wants to prove that any normal guy can make it to the peak. Yasuko Namba (Naoko Mori) wants to bag that last, elusive seventh mountain after having ascended the six highest peaks in the world. A little more elaboration would have made an already strong lineup of characters even better.

Everest is a heart-stopping movie that brings its audience thrills and vertigo as they witness the struggle for survival on one of Earth’s most inhospitable landscapes. It has everything a good disaster drama aims to have: a good set of characters, impossible odds, sheer human determination and ruthless nature. It is an adrenaline-packed movie that will keep you on the edge of your seat, rooting for the characters as they teeter on the edge of oblivion.

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