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Everest charts a dark day on our largest mountain

MoviesBy Esther McCarthy
Everest charts a dark day on our largest mountain

EVEREST IS the retelling of one of the biggest disasters ever to take place on the world’s most famous mountain.

It’s a traditional docudrama in the truest sense of the world, in that it sets out to recreate the events during a fatal three-day period in May 1996.

While its storytelling power sometimes wobbles, it demands to be seen on the biggest screen you can find. If you live near Dublin, that’s an IMAX, where the film’s visual effects look nothing short of spectacular.

In terms of capturing the sheer scale of what it takes to conquer the world’s highest mountain, Everest delivers. But there’s a very tragic human story at its core too.

The movie also sets out to capture the various incidents –
including errors, oversights and sheer bad luck – that led to the deaths of eight climbers over one day in 1996.

That death toll was dwarfed by the shocking earthquake that caused an avalanche last year, leading to 22 deaths. But for many years the events of 1996 were the darkest in mountaineering history.

Jake Gyllenhaal plays the gung-ho US mountaineer Scott Fischer, one of a new breed of climbers who was bringing groups of thrill seekers to attempt the summit.

As head of the adventure group Mountain Madness, he enjoyed a friendly rivalry with New Zealander Rob Hall (a very good Jason Clarke). As head of Adventure Consultants, he favoured a cautious approach, anxious as he was to respect the mountain and get home safely to his pregnant wife (played by Keira Knightley).

The climbers include a postman and a doctor, Beck Weathers (Josh Brolin) as they fight to get to safety.

Whether or not you’re aware of the fate of these various characters before going to see the film, it does a fine job of creating time and place and the dilemmas and judgement calls the climbers face, often in treacherous conditions.

It successfully charts the decisions and planning the climbers make, as well as covering the various elements – delays and congestion at the Hillary Step, missing ropes and a series of devastating storms – that helped contribute to the tragedy.

The movie’s old-fashioned in its approach, documenting events rather than giving us any real insight into what motivated the climbers. In this case it works very effectively, though that lack of back- story may alienate some viewers.

Everest (12A) 4/5 STARS