Everest is an existential film. It could be one of the most beautiful travelogues you’ve ever seen, but it is far more than that. Its beauty and majesty are perfectly enhanced by 3D, but the true significance has to do with the mysteries of the soul. What drives men to do things that they have no business doing? What makes them climb a mountain whose summit is at the height that 747 jets fly? The old answer that is always used is, “Because it’s there”. Obviously, the reasons run much deeper. There is a void in many people that they can only fill by doing the impossible. They look for accomplishments and knowledge that will hopefully give life meaning. Everest is the true story based on the book by Jon Krakauer, Into Thin Air. Krakauer also wrote Into The Wild, which became the 2007 film of the same name about a lone young man who hiked endlessly through the wilderness until he died of starvation. In both cases, these journeys for elusive truths became deadly and tragic.
The film has a expansive cast worthy of such an epic tale, including Jake Gyllenhaal (Southpaw, Nightcrawler), Sam Worthington ( Avatar, Terminator Salvation, Clash of the Titans), Josh Brolin ( Men in Black 3, Sin City 2), Jason Clarke (Terminator Genisys, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes), John Hawkes ( he Sessions, Winter’s Bone), Michael Kelly, Martin Henderson, Emily Watson, Keira Knightley, Robin Wright, and Tom Goodman-Hill (Mr. Selfridge, Humans). The director, Baltasar Kormakur, has changed his style considerably to suit the material. His last film with Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlburg, 2 Guns, was a Michael Bay-type, over-the-top action extravaganza. 2 Guns was ridiculous. Everest is a pristine visual masterpiece. He shows the events that occurred on the great mountain in 1996 with a documentary-like rigor as well as totally capturing the grandeur of the location. But the ultimate question remains. Why?
The events in 1996 involved numerous commercial mountain climbing tours taking place simultaneously. The book strenuously questioned the rampant commercialization that took place, allowing dilettantes of all kinds to participate in a grueling endeavor that is insanely dangerous. In this instance, eight people died.
Going to see the movie in IMAX 3-D is a very good substitute for the $65,000 price tag that was paid by the people on the tour at the time. That is similar to the practice of paying $10,000,000 to go on a private trip to the International Space Station. There must be better ways to spend money. I think mainlining heroin makes more sense (which I should rush to say is a very bad and stupid thing to do, kids). These activities are full of danger and extreme discomfort. So there must be dreams of great rewards when you accomplish your goals. I personally suspect that the payoff is not as complete and final as they might hope. In fact, most of these people pursue these thrills more than once, like they are chasing an addiction that can never be satiated.
Everest is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.40.1. The high-definition 3D image is arrived at using the standard duel MVC codec at an average 27/12 mbps. There’s no question that the most impressive part of this film is the breathtaking visuals. This high definition and 3D presentation bring that thrilling theatrical experience right into your home theatre. The depth of field here is truly amazing and puts you right on that mountain with these climbers. There’s a tremendous amount of white here, so that contrast has to really be tight to bring you the crucial colors that help you identify the characters during the harsh sleet and wind. The amount of detail in that ice and snow should have us talking about white levels as well as black levels. Both are wonderful. You can see texture and detail in this ice and snow, and it’s enough to give you a chill even if you’re watching from Florida, as I did. This is one of the most immersive experiences you’re going to find in home video.
The Dolby Digital Atmos defaults to 7.1 if you don’t have that ability. The rush of wind and sleet is pretty amazing. As if the video wasn’t enough to bring you to the summit of Everest, you’re surrounded by the chilling sounds of the mountain in all of its majesty. Somehow in all of this fury the dialog always manages to stay just enough out in front to allow you to hear it clearly. The score is a rousing accent to it all. Subs deliver the dynamic depth that tops it all off.
There is an Audio Commentary by director Baltasar Kormakur. He gives us a pretty vivid picture of what it was like to shoot under these conditions. It’s obvious he has a great amount of respect for the mountain and the people whose story he is telling.
These features can be found on both the Blu-ray 2D version of the film and in 3D on the 3D disc. It’s quite nice to see all of the extras get the 3D treatment.
Race To The Summit – The Making Of Everest: (10:58) Cast and crew marvel at the authenticity, challenges, and logistics of filming at Mt. Everest and the mountains of Northern Italy. The shoot required yaks and over 200 helicopter flights to move people and equipment. Then there was the reality of very cold working conditions.
Learning To Climb: (4:42) The cast recount the training and conditioning they underwent to prepare for the grueling filming conditions. It includes a chamber to simulate the altitude of the Everest summit.
A Mountain Of Work: (5:12) Of course, not everything could be shot in the actual mountain conditions. Obviously, they never actually journeyed to Everest’s summit. This feature looks at the constructed sets that reproduced those important locations. There’s a look at how the f/x team brought it all to life. Tons of behind-the-scenes footage here.
Aspiring To Authenticity – The Real Story: (6:46) Cast and crew met with the surviving members of the ill-fated 1996 expedition as well as family members of those who did not survive. It’s quite emotional meeting Rob’s widow and the daughter he never met.
It is a grueling and mortifying experience. You will not leave the theater whistling a happy tune. You will live the vicarious thrill of cheating death. This is the most frightening death that I can imagine: frozen to the side of a mountain for all eternity or blown to oblivion from a height 29,029 feet never to be found again.
Parts of this review were written by Gino Sassani