by Keith Hill
Rated M. Starring Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin, Jake Gyllenhaal. Directed by Baltasar Kormakur.
Italian mountaineer Reinhold Messner once said of Mount Everest: ‘By climbing mountains we were not learning how big we were. We were finding out how breakable, how weak and how full of fear we are.’ That weakness and fear is something that is palpable in Everest.
Everest tells the true story of the ill-fated 1996 expedition to reach the summit of the world’s highest mountain. Climbing Everest is big business, with the endeavour being increasingly commercialised, and dozens of adventure companies competing to get their clients to the summit. In one of the most extreme and desolate places on Earth, the competition leads to a dangerous traffic jam of wealthy middle-aged men with an adrenaline addiction that places lives in danger. It’s a disaster waiting to happen.
In this environment, it’s the role of Adventure Consultants owner and New Zealand mountaineer Rob Hall (Clarke) to get his team of eight tourists, including mailman Doug Hansen (John Hawkes), loud-mouthed Texan doctor Beck Weathers (Brolin) and journalist John Krakauer (Michael Kelly), safely to the top. Working alongside expedition group Mountain Madness, led by Scott Fischer (Gyllenhaal), they aim to reach the summit in a window of clear weather on May 10, 1996.
Their expedition quickly becomes a race against time, as a fierce blizzard rolls in and members of the group get separated. As the storm rolls in over the mountains and you watch the bodies of these men and women succumb to the effects of physical exhaustion, freezing temperatures, high altitude and low oxygen, you can’t help feeling helpless. You find yourself willing them to rally. To get up and make it down the mountain and home to their loved ones. But this isn’t that kind of movie. This is real life, and the rules of the real world apply here.
Throughout the film, Messner’s assessment rings true. Against the backdrop of this immense mountain, and in the face of the incoming blizzard, the men and women on Everest are weak and afraid. They are helpless against the incredible power of nature, and they’re unable to overcome even the weakness of their own bodies and will themselves down the mountain.
Yet there is a man who isn’t weak and afraid in the face of a great, life-threatening storm. In Mark 4:35–41, Jesus and his disciples find themselves stranded in the middle of the Sea of Galilee during a furious squall, one that has the disciples afraid for their lives. Unlike Hall and his clients, Jesus isn’t helpless. He’s the one who controls the wind and the waves with just a word, and brings them to a standstill. He has this power as the one who brought them into existence in the first place, at the beginning of time.
And although all this power was his, he became one of us, taking on our humanity, and all our weakness, our frailty and our fear. And in his humanity, he died on the side of another mountain. The one who carved Everest himself, who has the storm in the palm of his hand, faced the storm of God’s wrath so that he might deliver us from our own human weakness and the penalty of sin and death.
Everest forces us to admit our human frailty when faced with the sheer power of creation. But in Jesus, we can know the one who formed it all, and is able to deliver us from the greatest storm we will ever face.
Everest is an edge-of-your-seat expedition to one of the most desolate places on Earth, made all the more harrowing by the fact that it actually happened. Three-and-a-half stars.
Everest releases in Australian cinemas this Thursday 17th September, and in U.S. cinemas next Friday 25th September.