Movies about extreme sports (for example Point Break, Cliffhanger, …) often feature sub-plots involving criminal activity, as though the danger of the sport itself isn’t thrilling enough. Everest doesn’t have such a narrative; it really is just about the high-risk endeavor itself: to reach the top of the mountain despite the hostile environment and life-threatening conditions.
Perhaps that is why the movie has received mostly mediocre/bad reviews: not enough action, not enough Jake Gyllenhaal, who has a rather peripheral role. These reviews, however, are missing the point. Everest is no fictional thriller with some extreme weather thrown in; it’s based on the true story of a human tragedy that begs the questions: What went wrong? Could it have been avoided? Was it worth it? And most importantly: What’s the point of it all?
Because Everest is anything but glamorizing the climbing experience or the desire to reach the summit at all cost. Instead, we’re confronted with the realistic portrayal of a suicide mission that has been turned into a touristic bucket list item. Everest shows us how a once deserted dead-zone has become “over-crowded” with adventure travellers. Think of the irony! Meanwhile, the daredevil mountaineers trick their bodies into surviving the unsurvivable: with supplementary oxygen, meds, and injections. Everest is brutal, but anti-climactic and entirely unheroic. It’s a shame that critics viewed this as its flaw rather than its brilliance.