This film is based on true events from 1996 and were chronicled in Jon Krakauer’s bestselling book Into Thin Air and other books and films. Directed by Baltasar Kormakur, the film features an excellent cast and is the story of a people from a variety of backgrounds facing unbelievable conditions as they try to climb Mount Everest in Nepal. Why they want to spend $65,000 and face life-threatening conditions, in which the death rate at the time of the film was just over 5%, is another story.
There are a number of different groups making the climb to the summit. We follow the one led by Adventure Consulting’s Rob Hall, played by Jason Clarke. At one time the role was going to be filled by Christian Bale, but he chose to make Exodus: Gods and Kings instead.
Rob’s wife Jan (Keira Knightley) is pregnant with their first child. In his group is the arrogant Texas businessman Beck Weathers (Josh Brolin), whose marriage with wife Peach (Robyn Wright) is shaky: Doug Hansen (John Hawkes), who holds down three jobs, including being a mailman, and is making a final try to reach the top of Everest; Yasuko Nama (Naoko Mori), who has climbed six of the Seven Summits and only needs to conquer Everest. Also in Hall’s group is journalist Jon Krakauer (Michael Kelly), who will be writing an article about the experience. Hall’s friend Scott (Jake Gyllenhaal), is now leading a group from a competing company. Helen (Emily Watson) is likeable as she coordinates communications activities from a tent at the base of the mountain.
Hall’s plans are to prep his group for forty days so that they can start their final climb to the summit of Everest, the highest point on the planet, on the morning of May 10. They seek to accomplish this at “the cruising altitude of a 747”, an altitude we are told that the human body isn’t meant to function at.
Despite the strong cast, which also includes Sam Worthington, and five Oscar nominees (Gyllenhaal, Hawkes, Knightley, Watson and Brolin), the star of this film is definitely the mountain. The film does an excellent job depicting the frightening conditions and difficulty of scaling Everest (walking over ladders spread across ravines, avalanches, extreme weather conditions, climbing at extreme altitudes, etc.). In a rarity, the film includes no adult language or sexuality. Even during life-threatening situations, we don’t see any of the characters displaying any faith (praying, etc.).
As a side note, as the film was being shot in Nepal an avalanche occurred on April 18, 2014 and killed 16 people on Everest, delaying the making of the film.