Blu-ray 3D Review: Everest (2015)

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As a technical presentation, Universal's new Blu-ray 3D edition of Everest is undeniably spectacular. The transfer of Salvatore Totino's stunning cinematography, a combination of international on-location footage and seamlessly-integrated backlot material, offers a convincingly vertigo-inducing viewing experience. Anyone looking for a great demo disc for their 3D setup should proceed directly to Everest (available January 19, also in a 2D-only Blu-ray edition). It's not only the visuals that work so impeccably—the Dolby Atmos surround mix (for many this will default to the core Dolby TrueHD 7.1 mix) puts viewers at the center of a viscerally-engaging recreation of the 1996 climbing disaster that claimed eight lives at Mount Everest.

Those looking for a emotionally-involving piece of storytelling might be left a bit cold by the Baltasar Kormákur-directed film. Everest commendably de-emphasizes the overheated melodrama that so often accompanies disaster films. On the plus side, William Nicholson and Simon Beaufoy's screenplay favors realistic scenarios over genre cliches. The downside is that we never truly get inside the characters' heads. This is the story of a group of mountain climbers willing to risk everything in order to reach the summit of the world's highest peak. The drama rises out of clashes between two commercial mountineering businesses: Rob Hall (Jason Clarke) leads Adventure Consultants, while Scott Fischer (Jake Gyllenhaal) heads up Mountain Madness. 
 
Everest 1 (380x253).jpg As a series of disastrous events piles up, some natural (most significantly, a punishing blizzard) and some human-caused (a lack of necessary guide ropes at crucial spots along the ascent), it's worth keeping in mind these are real people being portrayed. The loss of human life at Everest on May 11, 1996 was significant and the filmmakers seem to be conscious of treating these characters with respect. As with any dramatization of true events, not everyone will agree with the results. Jon Krakauer (portrayed in the film by Michael Kelly) is a journalist and surviving member of the ill-fated expedition. His book, Into Thin Air, served as the foundation for a TV movie but not Everest. He has expressed displeasure with the way Everest tells aspects of the story.

But whatever nitpicking various parties might do, director Kormákur and company were not made a documentary here and certain liberties where inevitably taken. Josh Brolin portrays expedition survivor Beck Weathers, who is presented as so uncompromisingly arrogant that he never comes off as particularly sympathetic. The real Weathers has also expressed some misgiving with these choices. Regardless of what one might say, it was a bold move to avoid making any of these men and women (Torchwood's Naoko Mori delivers a dignified performance as climber Yasuko Namba) into a traditional "movie" hero. While the climbing sequences are breathtaking in their realism and sheer white-knuckle terror (non-mountaineers might wonder why anyone would subject themselves to such dangers), as a character-based drama Everest is ultimately rendered a bit neutral. 
 
Everest BD (304x380).jpg As for supplements, director Baltasar Kormákur offers an in-depth audio commentary track (excellent for anyone left craving insights into how the film's technical feats were achieved). Less satisfactory is a series of four relatively brief featurettes (totaling just under a half hour) that scratches the surface of the making of the film and the events that inspired it.

The 3D Blu-ray Combo Pack also includes 2D Blu-ray, standard DVD, and Digital HD copies of Everest.

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Chaz Lipp is a Seattle-based freelance writer whose focus is music and film. As “The Other Chad,” he has written for the online magazine Blogcritics since 2008. When he’s not writing, Chaz can be found trolling jazz clubs, attempting to find somewhere to play his sax (whether anyone wants to hear…

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