Everest, based on the events of the worst disaster to ever occur on the slopes of the mountain, is a story about people with balls much bigger than their brains; people whose pride and sense of purpose outgrew their logic; men and women who wanted to stand closer to God than any other being walking the earth.
This film (and slightly ficitonalized version) of the mountain expedition (preceded in similar account by the IMAX film of the same name, and the book Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer) is impressive - much of the film has actual footage of Everest, skillfully shot and woefully done by cinematographer Salvatore Totino, with visual effect shots that seamlessly fit in with the practical shots. I went into this film expecting a fake-looking, CGI-fest with actors working only on sets, but after some research found that many scenes were filmed at actual Nepalese locations and Everest base camps (with many mountainside shots filmed at the gigantic Pinewood Studios). My respect for the actors, as well as director Baltasar Kormákur, boosted up quite a few notches knowing that they respectfully went to the actual locations, rather than immersing themselves behind screens of green.
As mentioned before, the cinematography is great, as is the 3D experience should you decide to see it in this format (which I did, and enjoyed how it added to my vertigo in conjunction with my fear of heights). The acting is quite powerful and realistic, without drowning into the melodramatic. The real standouts are Jason Clarke as Adventure Consultants front-runner and Everest expedition leader Rob Hall, and Josh Brolin as Beck Weathers, who is given one of the coolest moments in the film. Jake Gyllenhaal is also great and unrecognizable behind a beard.
Overall the film didn't exactly have the tremendous dramatic wallop that I felt it deserved, though scenes toward the end with one character and his wife over phone and radio are quite powerful. If I had one knock on the film, it's that it didn't have the musical score that it needed in order to really send those dramatic moments home. Instead of a memorable, sweeping theme we are reduced to an unmemorable, generic "adventure score" from one of my least favorite of the Oscar-winning composers, Dario Marianelli. If Jerry Goldsmith were still alive, he would have eaten up a film like this and given it a little more dramatic life to what is a very dramatic story.
Everest is a visually great film with some great performances all-around, and if you have a choice to see it in 3D, I recommend it in that format.