by Jeff Walls
A lot of blockbusters recently have built themselves up as “an IMAX experience,” but they are not necessarily the cinematic experiences for which the IMAX format was originally designed. In fact, it was not that long ago when IMAX theaters played host mostly to documentary and travelogue films that took the viewer to amazing places around the world. Perhaps the new film Everest is the best of both worlds as it takes viewers to the highest place on Earth and showcases some incredible visuals, all while telling a dramatic narrative story based on real-life events. In fact, the movie briefly references the IMAX film crew that was creating a documentary film of the same story (and same name) when the events portrayed actually happened… a film that we were told prior to our screening was the one that opened the very IMAX cinema where we sat.
The story takes place in 1996 when two climbing expedition groups (among others) attempted to reach the summit of the largest mountain on planet Earth. The first group, Adventure Consultants, was led by Rob Hall, while the second group, Mountain Madness, was led by a guide named Scott Fischer. We are introduced to each of the group leaders, along with their team, support staff, and a few of the hikers whom they intend to lead to the mountain peak. Among the climbers are a brash Texan, a determined mailman, a journalist, and a woman who is looking to scale her seventh and final of the highest summits on each continent. Each has their own reason for wanting to reach the top and each also has reason to make it back home alive. Rob, for example, is looking forward to getting home for the birth of his baby girl.
The journey to the top is fraught with danger and not all of them are destined to make it, but some do and they are filled with a sense of triumph. While attempting to get back down the mountain, however, they are hit by a major storm that makes the dangerous mountain that much more treacherous. If they are to survive, they must remain determined, work together, and hope for even just a little bit of luck.
Everest is visually stunning. The mountain cinematography is impressive—even if it does blatantly repeat a shot now and then—and helps to give the audience an idea of the true scale of the mountain. These visuals are aided by fantastic special effects; not necessarily the effects that are designed to be noticed, but rather the invisible kind that makes it impossible to tell what is real and what is being digitally added. The combined use of the cinematography and the special effects help to make the audience feel as if they truly are up on top of this gigantic mountain.
The movie features a long list of recognizable actors and they each do an excellent job of disappearing into their characters, helping us to see that these were real people who were attempting to accomplish this remarkable goal. Each of the actors brings something different to the movie and their performances combined with the well-written script help the audience feel for each and every one of the main characters.
The movie works better as a dramatic document of the events than it does as a thriller. Perhaps that is because the movie tends to telegraph in advance when a certain character is doomed, lessening the suspense. One character does have a surprising fate, however, and if you would like that to be a surprise than I recommend you avoid looking up which hikers’ books this movie was adapted from before you head to the theater.
Everest is a well-made and entertaining IMAX experience that deserves to be seen in the format.
Everest opens today at the AMC Southcenter 16… and is of course also at the Pacific Science Center IMAX theater. Won’t it be nice when Des Moines has its own theater again? It’s reportedly gonna happen! Until then, eat local before you go!