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:: Everest

This is a visually commanding film of the true story of a two groups who, attempting to climbing Everest in 1996, were caught in a violent storm that claimed several lives. Salvatore Totino’s magnificent 3D cinematography makes the most of vital location filming in Nepal (and the Dolomites) and vividly proves the real star of this epic/disaster movie is Everest, whose commanding presence reduces the actors to supporting players.

Seeing the film in vivdly-filmed 3D simply underlines its visual dominance. That said, the people hoping to reach the summit are well played, even though, covered in snow and/or beards, they inevitably and all too often end up playing second fiddle to snow, scenery and special effects. Nevertheless Jason Clarke, the leader of the group Adventures Consultants who guide aspirant mountaineers, Texan Josh Brolin, Sam Worthington and John Hawkes give good accounts of themselves while bearded Jake Gyllenhaal enjoys himself over-playing a hippy on the slopes.

Given the essentially macho nature of the narrative, Robin Wright as Brolin’s wife waiting for him back home in Texas, Keira Knightley, eminently forgettable in a couple of scenes as Clarke’s pregnant wife and, with the best female role and playing it well, Emily Watson as the base co-ordinator for Clarke’s operation, remain sideline attractions.

Director Baltasar Kormakur creates effective suspense (literally in sequences where the mountaineers traverse swaying rope bridges across vertiginous crevasses) from William Nicholson and Simon Beaufoy’s screenplay (based on journalist Jon Krakauer’s best-selling account of the disastrous 1996 expedition ‘Into Thin Air’, with the author played here by Michael Kelly).

In the final analysis, however, scenery tends to overwhelm mere actors. Even Gyllenhaal’s enthusiastic overplaying fails to upstage Everest.