• Everest

    Released By: Universal
    Released On: January 19, 2016
    Director: Baltasar Kormákur
    Cast: Josh Brolin, Keira Knightley, Jake Gyllenhaal, Robin Wright, Jason Clarke

    The Film:

    Call me unappreciative of fun, adventurous stuff, but I remain befuddled by the fact that people want to climb gigantic, dangerous mountains, and pay tens of thousands of dollars for the chance to do so. Never mind that I don't like heights...or cold...or sleeping in tents...it's a MOUNTAIN. It's DEADLY. And if you want substantial proof, look no further than the Everest expedition of May 1996, which left eight people dead on the mountainside; the most fatal day on Everest until the avalanches of 2014 and 2015.

    Baltasar Kormákur's 2015 film Everest attempts to tell the story of what happened during that fateful expedition, utilizing the numerous survivor accounts (most notably journalist Jon Krakauer's, "Into Thin Air" and Anatoli Boukreev's, "The Climb: Tragic Ambitions on Everest") as well as the actual transmission tapes recorded at the base camp to get a more unique perspective. At the beginning of the film, we're introduced to the clients joining the Adventure Consultants team, including experienced climber Beck Weathers (Josh Brolin), aforementioned journalist Jon Krakauer (Michael Kelly), Doug Hansen (John Hawkes) who had attempted the summit the year before and failed, and Yasuko Namba (Naoko Mori) who at 47 would become the oldest woman to summit Everest.

    Trouble begins when the Adventure Consultants group, led by Rob Hall (Jason Clarke) get to the Base Camp to discover that a ridiculous number of other adventure groups will be attempting the summit at the same time. Despite a clash with the South African team, whose slow progress almost results in a fatality, Hall and his group manage to work out a truce with the other consultants, including Mountain Madness' Scott Fischer (Jake Gyllenhaal) a laid-back climbing expert. As the group begins the first of three "test climbs" to ensure that they're capable of making the dangerous trek to the peak, the characters and their individual motivations are revealed; the most compelling being that of Doug Hansen, who failed to summit the year before and is making this year's climb courtesy of an elementary school funding to place a flag for the students as a sign of inspiration.

    Things go pretty well as the groups proceed up the mountainside, making it to each successive camp until they reach Camp 4 at 26,000 feet, the last stop before the "Death Zone" between camp and summit. A nasty storm threatens the climb, but clears up shortly after midnight, giving the group almost 14 hours before the 2 p.m safe turnaround time...and that's when things go about as wrong as they can. While nobody will ever be able to say for certain what happened after that, this version paints a terrifying story of freak storms, misplaced oxygen tanks, missing climbing ropes, and poor decisions made by the people running the show that resulted in the deaths of clients, experienced consultants, and Indo-Tibetan Border Police, not to mention permanent injuries due to frostbite and missing limbs. Even more disturbing is not knowing what occurred in those final moments; were the victims really driven to the desperate acts of suicide shown here?

    The story of the 1996 expedition is certainly compelling enough...but how does the film stand up? Well, there are a number of things that Everest absolutely nails in terms of doing things right. First up is the look of the film itself. While perusing the supplements on the special effects will probably ruin it, the scenery found in this movie is breathtaking. The ice flows, the deadly crevasses, the windswept mountain ranges...absolutely beautiful. The soundtrack is also marvelous, creating (what I would imagine) is a perfect representation of what one would imagine such a climb to sound like. And the cast; brilliant. Josh Brolin, Jason Clarke, Michael Kelly, Emily Watson...every actor in the film seems to have been a perfect fit for their role, no matter how minimal or influential. The amount of talent on display is dizzying...and that's part of the problem.

    The only issue with the film (aside from the nitpicking that the experts will no likely engage in) is that there's farrrr too much to keep track of without knowing the backstory. While I'm generally not a fan of dumbing down a film to make it more accessible, Everest could definitely have benefited from a simplification of the people involved and the events. With so many characters to monitor, details are forgotten; and when these details are forgotten, the characters become less important, not something that should happen when telling events of this magnitude. It's difficult to comment more fully without getting into spoiler territory, but post-film research has revealed a ton of information that the film failed to fully convey. If you're interested in picking up the basics of what happened on the mountain in May of 1996, this is a great looking and sounding way of doing it.


    Universal brings Everest to Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D, DVD, and HD Download (there are a few discs in this package) in an awesome 2.40:1 AVC-encoded transfer that looks amazing. Detail is razor-sharp and crystal clear, capturing every frame of the mountain and the inclement weather in a completely realistic manner that will definitely show off the capabilities of your display. Black levels are deep, the colour representation is wonderful, and there are no issues to speak of as far as compression or any other glitches.

    The audio track used for this review was the Dolby 7.1 ATMOS soundtrack, and it's mind-blowingly good. Ice cracking, avalanches, storms, etc, explode out of the speakers on all sides, creating an immersive soundstage that compliments the look of the film perfectly. Oh, and dialogue is also clear and consistent with no issues. Compliments to the foley artists on this film.

    There are a number of subtitle options included as well, such as English, French, and Spanish.

    Race To The Summit: The Making of Everest (10:59) is the first supplement on the disc, and features the actors and filmmakers discussing the inspiration for the film, the difficulty in filming at certain locations, and the attempt to be authentic in the telling of the story.

    Learning to Climb (4:42) looks at how the actors were trained on the equipment used for climbing, and their exposure to altitude simulation and the effects.

    A Mountain of Work (5:13) looks at the visual effects including CGI to create the mountain atmosphere, which robs the film of some of its magic.

    Aspiring to Authenticity - The Real Story (6:47) features the families and survivors of the climb commenting on the actual events and people involved.

    A feature-length commentary with the Director is also included, wherein he describes the cast, the locations used, and the tapes that he had access to, among other things. The issue with the commentary that I found is that Baltasar Kormákur's accent is extremely heavy, and there are no subtitles provided, which makes some of the commentary difficult to understand.

    The Final Word:

    Universal's Blu-ray of Baltasar Kormákur's Everest is definitely going to be as close to a cinematic experience as you can get without going to the movies. Superb audio and video abounds.

    Click the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!