- On ice: Jake Gyllenhaal
Everest is a well-acted and briskly told film about a catastrophic real-life 1996 climb up that famed Himalayan peak. Director Baltasár Kormakur offers stunning vistas, harrowing action and well-delineated characters, including famed guide Rob Hall (Jason Clarke), Jake Gyllenhaal as another guide, and climbers played by Josh Brolin and John Hawkes. Another character is Jon Krakauer (Michael Kelly), whose best-selling book Into Thin Air covered the same events.
The story plays partly as running inquest into a disaster in progress: Equipment is improperly deployed, the weather turns, and decisions are made based on factors other than safety. The film emphasizes that some questionable calls were swayed by commercial considerations — not summiting is bad for business — and in the context of narrow passes logjammed by climbers lured by the color brochures of the then-fledgling “adventure” industry.
Ultimately, however, Everest asks not just our attention, which it earns, but our sympathy, which it doesn’t. While these mountaineers are in peril, they’re not aid workers, let alone, say, political refugees; they’re people who paid large sums to voluntarily court mortal danger. (At extremely high altitudes, the film notes, human bodies literally begin to die.) Though a couple climbers offer poetic justifications for their passion, in the annals of evitable suffering, little surmounts recreational mountain-climbing. In 3-D, in select theaters