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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
K2 vs. Everest
by Richard Jack Smith

For climbers seeking the ultimate prize, Mount Everest looms over them like a sleeping dragon. Its teeth consist of unstable ridges and crevasses. Temperatures drop suddenly, while the blood thickens and the need for oxygen reaches desperate levels. In short, history records the feats of many who conquered this summit as well as those who never made it back. So how does Baltasar Kormákur's Everest compare to my favourite mountaineering movie, Franc Roddam's K2?

The filmmakers have created a cinematic event impossible to describe without mentioning spoilers. Suffice to say, Everest lacks what made K2 so special: a crescendo which pays off such rigorous climbing. Also, Dario Marianelli's predictable score rarely creates sufficient depth. In fact, his music could easily accompany a romantic comedy. By contrast, Hans Zimmer contributed some lovely themes for K2, the sum total equalling the highest inspirational peak.

Another problem that plagues Everest involves the shadow of 9/11. Despite good intentions from writers William Nicholson and Simon Beaufoy, they tell a doubly depressing drama.

Happily, the performances are less disconcerting because Jason Clarke makes a sublime leading man, and John Hawkes masters every character-driven nuance. However, those who fall victim to dispassionate cutting include Jake Gyllenhaal and Sam Worthington. Given ten more minutes, these actors could flesh out such skeletal characterization.

Then there's the mountain itself, functioning as a monochromatic scaffold inside a colour film. Clearly, this 29,000 foot landmark deserves better coverage. What we see ranges from the capricious to the downright arbitrary. Occasionally, this journey feels more like ambling over a sugar-coated hill than a mountain.

(Released by Universal Pictures and rated “PG-13” for intense peril and disturbing images.)

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