Jon Krakauer published a book in 1997 called Into Thin Air. It was his personal account of the 1996 Mount Everest disaster that killed 8 people and left several more stranded in a life-threatening storm. The novel described the guide-agencies on Mount Everest and how they were paid big bucks to help climbers reach the summit. My husband (just a boyfriend at the time) LOVED Into Thin Air, citing the heroic circumstances and how they risked their lives for each other. I read the book because I liked him and wanted share his enthusiasm but I found more hubris in it than heroism. I thumbed through passages about people struggling to survive and wondered “Why were they up there in the first place?”
I hoped Everest the movie might offer more insight, but that’s not the case. In fact, there’s one scene where Jon Krakauer (played by Michael Kelly) asks his team-members why they climb and even THEY don’t know. They laugh and say, “Because it’s THERE,” but it seems like a paltry excuse when they’re clinging to life soon after.
I don’t want to seem disrespectful because real people are portrayed in this film. I’ll just never understand why anyone would pay $65,000 for a chance to MAYBE die on the side of a mountain. It’s impossible to keep this from clouding my judgement when it comes to Everest the movie. Yes, I truly enjoyed some things about it, like Texan Beck Weathers (played by Josh Brolin) and his incomprehensible survival in the storm. I was even more moved by Robin Wright, who plays his Get-Things-Done wife “Peach.” Jason Clarke brings the perfect combination of kindness and spirit to “Rob Hall” and I adored Emily Watson as the Camp Mother “Helen Wilton.” There are times though, when the movie plods along like the climbers themselves, struggling to get from one point to the next. It’s also difficult to determine one character from the other, once they’re packed into their Marmot gear and climbing. People died dramatically onscreen but sometimes, I couldn’t tell who they were.
You can’t help but get caught up in the drama once things turn tragic. I cried bitter tears when “Rob Hall” talked to his pregnant wife one last time by satellite phone. I gasped and sobbed as conditions worsened and team members succumbed to the elements. Their deaths seemed so sad and senseless though, and not heroic as I’d hoped. I’m giving Everest a B- for telling an interesting but sad story about people who risked their lives and paid dearly for it. I’ll never understand the desires that put them on that peak though. People are still paying guide-agencies to help them summit Mount Everest today. In fact, twenty-two people have died this year alone trying to reach that peak. I wonder if we’ll ever hear their stories.
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