Adventure Biography

'Everest' Blu-ray Review: A compelling tale of man versus nature

January 19, 2016Ben MK

A gripping account of what was then the greatest single loss of human life on Mount Everest, Everest is the story of the tragedy that befell two climbing expeditions that aimed to conquer the mountain in May of 1996. It especially focuses on one person — Rob Hall, the leader of one of the expeditions and the man who, four years earlier, pioneered commercial climbing on Everest.

The straightforward narrative follows Hall (Jason Clarke) as he departs his native New Zealand (leaving behind his pregnant wife, Jan, played by Kiera Knightley) for Kathmandu, Nepal. There he meets up with the group of tourists he'll be leading up the mountain, including Beck Weathers (Josh Brolin) and Doug Hansen (John Hawkes), as well as journalist Jon Krakauer (Michael Kelly), who will be covering their ascent. But with this being a particularly busy year for commercial ascents, Hall soon realizes that their expedition may be in jeopardy, due to the logistical challenges of having so many teams targeting the summit at the same time.

He's able to convince the leader of one such team, Scott Fischer (Jake Gyllenhaal), to work with him by coordinating their climbs. Despite their best efforts, however, nothing can prepare them for the disaster that awaits them 28,740 feet, when a freak storm pummels its way up the mountain, catching both teams of climbers by surprise and spelling demise for eight of them. The story of their ordeal was eventually chronicled in Krakauer's book "Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster," but of course it pales in comparison to watching the situation unfold on-screen.

Directed by Baltasar Kormákur and scripted by William Nicholson and Simon Beaufoy, Everest also stars Emily Watson, Sam Worthington and Robin Wright. But despite the presence of such recognizable faces, the film is never overshadowed by its cast. On the contrary, Everest never loses sight of the human drama at its core. Shot partly on-location and boasting impressive visuals that convincingly recreate the events leading up to that fateful day, this is a movie that's first and foremost a lesson about the power of the human spirit, a story of survival against all odds, and a compelling tale of man versus nature.

Bolstered by its crisp picture quality, nicely saturated colors and deep, dark black levels, Everest looks fantastic on Blu-ray. Fine detail is evident in everything from the craggy mountainside to Gyllenhaal and Clarke's snow-covered beards, and the climbers' colorful clothing and gear stand out against the stark, white snow drifts. As for the audio, the disc's Dolby Atmos sound mix does a great job of balancing the film's quieter, more introspective moments with those that will leave listeners in awe, surrounding them with the sounds of howling winds, crumbling ice formations and crackles of thunder.

Arriving from Universal as both a two-disc 2D Blu-ray combo pack and a three-disc 3D package, Everest includes an iTunes/UltraViolet digital copy, a DVD and the following Blu-ray extras:

  • Race to the Summit: The Making of Everest (10:59) - A look behind-the-scenes, from the challenges of filming at the base of Mount Everest, to filming in Northern Italy, to the camaraderie among the cast and crew.
  • Learning to Climb (4:42) - The cast, the filmmakers and Key Alpine Advisor Guy Cotter talk about the training and preparation the actors underwent prior to filming.
  • A Mountain of Work (5:13) - A look at how some of the real-life locales were recreated on-set at Pinewood Studios.
  • Aspiring to Authenticity: The Real Story (6:47) - A featurette focusing on the real story of three of the people depicted in film, featuring interviews with the filmmakers and the cast, as well as with the real-life Jan Hall, her daughter Sarah Arnold-Hall, Helen Wilton and Beck Weathers.
  • Feature Commentary with Director Baltasar Kormákur - Kormákur talks about such things as the research he did preparing for the movie, the real-life events, the structure of the narrative, the characters and the actors' portrayals of them, shooting on-location in Nepal and Italy, the visual effects and more.

Everest is available from Universal Home Entertainment as of January 19th, 2016. The Blu-ray features English Dolby Atmos, French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, and English Dolby Digital 2.0 Descriptive Audio tracks. The film is presented with English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles. The total runtime is 2 Hrs. 1 Min.

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