First Hit: Having read Krakauer’s book, the film was generally weak and disappointing.
I do not read many books that are tuned into films and I had read this book when it first came out.
Because it was some time ago, I hoped to just view the film without the prejudice of the book in the back of my mind. However, there was little or no back story as to why Scott Fisher (Jake Gyllenhaal) was the way he was. In fact the backstories were minimal and the attempt to build them during an evening when Krakauer (played by Michael Kelly) asked “Why” the climbers were climbing Everest fell far short of providing the needed information.
The audience needs to know why the characters are doing what they are doing - it is the primary set-up job of the director and scriptwriters. The gist of this story has too many people climbing Everest as part of their bucket list. With so many untrained and unskilled people trying to climb Everest we know something is going to happen.
Having been to Lukla, Namche Bazar, Tengboche and Kala Pattar, I’ve seen Everest reasonably close. I’ve seen hikers/climbers tossed onto the backs of Yaks to bring them expediently down the mountain because of altitude sickness. There just doesn’t seem to be enough respect for the mountain.
Rob Hall (Jason Clarke) had developed a company that took less experienced people up to the top of Everest. One of his rivals was Fisher. They are different in their attitude towards the mountain and they team up to try to get both their parties up and down the mountain safely. I heard this from the first time I hiked in to Lukla, “Everest makes its own weather”.
Having flown over the Everest from Gonggar airport in Lhasa, Tibet, seeing the way the wind whips across the top and the ridges the statement seemed so true. In this story a weather front comes in and seals the fate of many climbers who didn’t put their safety over the goal. There are great shots of Khumbu Icefall and the treacherous ladder bridges.
One of the best stories out of the book and one of the main stories in the film is of the rich arrogant Texan Beck Weathers (Josh Brolin) who ends up surviving the trek but ends up with a severe case of frostbite. The other sub-story is of the wives and supporting women of the men (and one woman) climbing the mountain.
The worst part of the film for me is seeing (and it is true) how much garbage and oxygen bottles are left on the mountain (from Base Camp on up) - lack of respect for nature.
Clarke was OK as Rob Hall. I didn’t believed his character but that could have been the direction. Gyllenhaal was OK, but with a lack of a backstory I just kept wondering why he acted the way he did. Kelly as Krakauer seemed like a very minor character, however his book raised the awareness of Everest and these climbers. Brolin was very good as the abrasive ego centric Texan. Emily Watson as Helen Wilton was strong as base camp manager. Keira Knightly was very strong as Hall's pregnant wife waiting for him to return for the birth of his daughter. William Nicholson and Simon Beaufoy wrote a weak script that really developed only 2 characters (Hall and Weathers). Baltasar Kormakur directed the film and given the intensity of the event and the decisions that were made, I was very disappointed in the result.
Overall: This film did not deliver a very intense story.