We start this month's theme of Man vs. Nature with an incredible but tragic true story that paints the majestic Mount Everest in a horrifying light. I will also take the time to recommend the documentary of the events to inspire this film; 'Into Thin Air: Death on Everest' (if you can find it). In either case, each film gives a pretty traumatic look at the seemingly common bucket list goal of climbing Mt. Everest. For yours truly, it's more than enough to say "not in a million years".
Taking place in 1996, a man named Rob Hall (Jason Clarke) has popularized commercial Everest missions. On this fateful mission, Rob is leading a team consisting of a variety of characters; an experienced climber named Beck Weathers (Josh Brolin); a mailman pursuing a goal named Doug Hansen (John Hawkes); a climbing veteran named Yasuko Namba (Naoko Mori), making this the last of the Seven Summits for her to climb; and a journalist for "Outside" magazine named Jon Krakauer (Michael Kelly).
Meanwhile, Rob's company 'Adventure Consultants' has friendly competition with 'Mountain Madness', lead by Scott Fischer (Jake Gyllenhaal). However with potential climber overcrowding, the two groups have to try to agree on thing like reducing delays, and keeping an eye on the elements that involve extreme cold, pitfalls, lack of oxygen, and worst of all, a terrible incoming winter storm. As the groups try to cooperate with their back and forth, as well as the stubbornness of some of the climbers, before anyone knows it, everyone is in for a disaster of epic proportions that make the craziest disaster movies look like a picnic - especially when you know all of this stuff actually happened.
This one came out five years ago, and did manage to hit it pretty big for the time. It was a September release, so it didn't quite fit the summer blockbuster caliber of things, but a lot of the names were a big draw, along with the true story aspect. However, it seemed to get the treatment of either being completely overlooked, or viewed once and let alone to be forgotten about. It's funny, but if I bring this up nowadays, it seems there's a select few who have even heard of it - even with all of the names attached. I haven't even mentioned Keira Knightly, or Robin Wright (who play Ben and Beck's respective at-home wives), but things are decently star-studded here.
The real draw of the film, however, has everything to do with its overall intensity. I saw this one on the big screen with post-conversion 3D, and it actually turned out really good. For a lot of the time, you feel like you're right there with the group, caught up in all the terrifying elements nature can throw at you. I still remember actually keeping my jacket on for the movie because something about it just felt cold. On the small screen, the effect isn't quite as strong, but that doesn't matter, because there's still a great but harrowing story here that deserves to be seen. I feel like this was a title that kind of got swept under the rug after a little while, but it's a great cautionary tale for aspiring mountaineers.
I feel obligated, however, to inform everyone that this is not what one would call a "feel-good" movie of any kind. It has some funny moments of comradery, but nothing about it is a comedy. It's intense for a lot of it, and nearing the end, your heart is just about bound to break. But once again, if you think a Hollywood movie on these events is gonna be too much for you, I stil highly recommend the documentary, 'Into Thin Air: Death on Everest'. It's honestly just as intense, and you'll get more accounts from some of the real people involved. As for this, it's one of very few movies where, when I left the theater, everyone was just quiet, and for me, that only means it makes one think. It's a very good movie, and I still highly recommend it - but have something cheerful on standby for after it's over.