When asked the question in “Everest,” a group of hale and hearty mountain climbers shout out “Because it’s there!” and then laugh.
But this harrowing true account of a deadly expedition caught in a fierce storm is no laughing matter. Eight people died, which at the time in May 1996 was the worst disaster on the world’s highest mountain. The incident was the subject of a previous IMAX documentary and journalist Jon Krakauer’s book “Into Thin Air,” and he is a character here.
Intense and grim, the screenplay by William Nicholson (“Gladiator”) and Simon Beaufoy (“Slumdog Millionaire”) meticulously captures the admirable stamina, mental attitudes and physical acuity of a disparate multinational group of adventurers.
What they paid $65,000 each to accomplish seems foolhardy as perilous conditions mar the incredible journey.
With such harsh weather and massive obstacles connected to reaching the summit — at 29,029 feet — during a very brief window, one does wonder “Why?” The movie earnestly attempts to depict motivation, but with a large ensemble to keep track of, it’s impossible to learn about all the individuals.
The elements, and the cinematography, seem to be the real focus here. Nevertheless, the camera work by Salvatore Totino (“The DaVinci Code”) is stunning. Pay the extra fee for the IMAX experience — it is worth seeing the breathtaking vistas and the viewpoints presented.
What Doesn’t Work
Director Baltasar Kormakur (“2 Guns”) has opted to tell the story in a methodical, procedural way that gets bogged down in too many insider details and melodrama.
The dialogue is at times difficult to hear because of the howling winds, and hampered by bundled-up characters’ faces matted in ice.
It’s heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time.
One can only watch these people with awe, and wonder, and question their sanity.
3 stars out of 4
Director: Baltasar Kormakur
Starring: Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin, Jake Gyllenhaal, Emily Watson, Sam Worthington, Keira Knightley, Robin Wright, John Hawkes, and Michael Kelly.
Rated: PG-13 for intense peril and disturbing images.
Note: Released in IMAX 3D and premium-large format 3D Sept. 18; opens on 2D and regular 3D screens Sept. 25.