Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway
A mountain peak can be analogous to a creature, a biblical Leviathan perhaps, or a Moby Dick born from ice. In its most basic form The Summit is an expression of Inconquerable Nature, a testament to the supremacy of the terrestrial world. The idea that man can somehow conquer such peaks and reach formidable heights have inspired us for centuries and inflamed our collective Mind.
The top of Everest is arguably the largest and most lethal of these challenges.
"Everest" by director Baltasar Kormáku (2 Guns) is about one such scaling trek led by climber Rob Hall (Jason Clarke) and Scott Fischer (Jake Gyllenhaal), a leader from another group. The two are joined by a macho doctor, Beck (Josh Brolin) and a mailman Doug Hansen (John Hawkes)
A seasoned climber from Japan, Naoko (Yasuko Namba) also joins the group. The two set up base camp and become almost instantly threatened, first by fear and what ifs (as in a horror film) and then by happenstance.
For good tidings, they attend a zen ceremony, but right from the start, one understands that there are no certainties. The film does an excellent job in building suspense. Hall's wife (Kiera Knightley) is pregnant, while Beck's spouse (Robin Wright) is an anxious wreck and their wants and worries are well illustrated. Still, iron Will comes to the fore with testosterone and estrogen alike. The groups must conquer the peak. Why?
Simply because the Everest exists.
Much like Roy Scheider and Richard Dreyfuss did in "Jaws," the groups check and re-check their supplies and begin a hard and laborious journey, but it starts smoothly enough.
Then weather hits and the melodrama begins. The groups cough and writhe under the sheer magnitude of the ice face that transforms into a literal monster with frozen teeth. All drama aside, the film showcases superior 3D effects that put us right alongside some nervous hands and feet. One cringes with every step and the blinding temperatures are even sensed, so immersive is the depiction.
A rare thing it is to see the insidious condition of frostbite so vividly. It invades upon the face like a red sin, in comparison to Lovecraft or Poe the blight is unforgiving.
Emily Watson gives an emotive perfomance as the den mother at the camp, desperately trying to hold everyone and everything together, sanity being the least of problems.
Despite some predictable action with shaky bridges and numb hands, the sequences remain thrilling and reactive, very much like a real ascent. One watches "Everest" with a sense of actual panic. The peak stands alone as a white juggernaut, a triangle of sky as well as ice. The great rise is transformed from an abstract idea to be achieved into a sliding Succubus by the power of ego and fear. Men and women are tossed down without mercy and the ice shelves become sculptures of flesh for those doomed to plunge, either by anoxia or arrogance.
Doug and Naoko in particular, are icy spacemen driven into lightness by a lack of oxygen. Both plant flags into this frozen moon, in a direct parallel to Apollo 11. Desire outsteps all logic or reason.
Write Ian at email@example.com