SPOILER ALERT: Some people went up a mountain; some people came down a mountain; some people didn’t come down a mountain. Of course the mountain in question is Everest.
Unless you’re a mountaineer one snowy mountain can begin to look like any other very quickly. And Everest Base camp can begin to look a lot like Everest Camp 1, which in turn begins to resemble Everest Camp 2. No matter how catchy names of passes and ice fields are they can tend to begin to merge into the same element of peril or risk whether it’s Hilary Step, The Balcony or some bottomless crevasse.
If you then have characters wrapped up and wearing snow goggles it can all get very confusing. I tried to keep track of characters by the colour of their snow suits. But even that got confusing after the odd avalanche. I didn’t know who I was supposed to root for. It’s hard to have an investment in a film’s characters if they are not only indistinguishable from each other but also tend to fall off mountains or freeze to death.
I really wanted to like Everest and I’m sure I didn’t dislike it but I didn’t sit on the edge of my seat or feel any real empathy or investment in the characters. Is that because it was so hard to sympathise with people climbing a mountain who maybe shouldn’t have been there? I don’t think that was it. Maybe the strange idea of climbing a mountain as if it were a minor trek leaves you contemplating other’s failures and tragedy when there was choice involved.
It was odd to see all these mountaineers all kitted up with their high tech gear queuing to clamber across some roped together ladders that wouldn’t have looked out of place in B&Q or Home Depot. Maybe I’ve seen too many other mountain films that weren’t based on tragic real events and failed to realise the real reality of dying on a cold mountain for the pleasure and bragging rights of climbing it.
This film’s tragedy may creep up on me, as I process those images and contrast them with those stored and watched through the years. Will I think about this film when I watch Vertical Limit, The Eiger Sanction, Lost Horizon, or even consider the reality of the harsh unpredictable nature of the mountains so lovingly portrayed in Heidi, or good old holiday fare, Grizzly Adams? Yes I think I will.