Appellate Judge James A. Stewart has never been caught in an avalanche. He thanks karma—and staying on the ground!
"The only difference between those frozen corpses up there and the ones who make it back has nothing to do with luck or karma or the blessings of the goddess. It's about willpower—what's up here."
What's up there is the summit of Everest. In 1982, a group of Canadians decided to make the climb in memory of a friend who died on a mountain. Their story was chronicled in Canadians on Everest by Bruce Patterson and Colleen Campbell and is the basis for Everest, in which a funeral leads to fisticuffs and the decision to climb Mount Everest. It won't be easy—one climber is going to face legal troubles, others will die or suffer injury, and oxygen will be in short supply by the end of the journey.
What struck me most about Everest is how light the first hour or so seemed. The Canadian climbers are joking around, mooning cameras and jousting in jest with climbing poles; when they first arrive in Kathmandu, they're wide-eyed as they record everything with their camcorder. An avalanche changes their situation and the tone of the movie. Suddenly, repeated cries of "Peter! Peter!" as climbers search for a missing friend have a dramatic impact. From that point, everything's a struggle—against conflict in their own ranks, against sponsors who'd like to call it off before anyone else gets hurt, against weather and nature.
Of course, you know they made it; no one would have written a book about turning around and going home. The best part of Everest is the sense of what it's like to be in an avalanche, wonder about missing comrades, or struggle for breath in thin air. That final climb with low oxygen tanks makes for a dramatic moment. It takes a little while to sort the characters out. Roger Marshall, who started the ball rolling but found himself being asked to stay home because of his legal troubles, is the first guy I picked out from the crowd, thanks to the argumentive nature that goes with his determination. Later on, Laurie Skreslet, who keeps climbing with injured ribs, becomes the character you'll follow to the top.
There's a little bait-and-switch in the credits; Jason Priestly and William Shatner are listed prominently on the packaging but have smaller roles. The acting's usually good, so that's not a big problem.
There's a hint of flaring from all the bright red and blue against the white of mountain snow, but the picture is otherwise good, as is sound quality. This was a screener, with prominent flaws put in by Image, so final quality might be different.
Everest was made for the CBC; I'd guess that Canadian viewers stand a good chance of seeing this one turn up again on TV.
It's a feel-good story of beating the odds, and I must admit I felt good by
the end. It's worth a rental if you're interested. Not guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Image Entertainment
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