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You cannot go wrong with this story, the battle man against mountain, humans in a zone that is not made for human survival. This is what makes all high-altitude climbing films compelling, and especially so when you do not just have a scripted disaster, but one that is known to have happened, and on a major scale. The events around the 1996 catastrophe on Mount Everest has it all, including human failure, even by what are thought to be outstanding experts on the matter of surviving against the odds. There is the matter of greed leading to death, an oddly and uncomfortably guiltily rewarding insight. There is the sheer ferocity of nature, the merciless hammering of snow and wind, similar to scenes when tsunamis strike, sweeping away whatever is in its way. So it is not merciless, after all, nature is just ignorant about those little creatures trying to prove their own worth (physically and financially) by doing the most stupid and futile thing, just because they can.

Jon Krakauer’s book naturally has the space to paint this landscape in full desolate colours. We get to know the characters, their motivations and shortcomings, the institutional layout of the machinery that seeks to bring them to the top of a mountain that only qualifies for the challenge because it happens to feature Earth’s highest altitude. If you have seen the IMAX film that happened to be shot at the time of the disaster, you will see a worthwhile complement, in that it remains a fragment, its production being thwarted by the unfolding events, and throwing the film crew into the middle of a rescue operation. And now a feature film, a blockbuster… does it work?

Everest as a movie tries to do what the book does, within the necessary laws of the entertainment industry. Human drama can be done, that’s what Hollywood is good at. Nature’s forces are impressive, the feeling of being disoriented and lost quite an achievement in particular of the editors. What the film lacks to a certain degree is the reasoning: how could that happen? What was the difference to the hundreds of other occasions where the same kind of people with the same kind of skills (or lack of it) where trying the same thing? There is no feeling of inevitability, but merely one of unlucky circumstances. It was an accident, you say? I believe it wasn’t, but it was the realization of an almost 100 per cent chance of people dying on a major scale because that’s what you do when climbing into a death zone. It is like climbing Alpe d’Huez on your bike, wondering on the way why the hell you are doing that to yourself. Only on your bike, what can happen is that you fall off, take some breaths and roll down again. Or have another try. When you are meeting your limits on Everest, you die, just like that. The feeling of anger about those who claim otherwise and make their living from convincing less skilled climbers is what I remember from reading the book. What the movie leaves me behind with is a feeling of “bad luck”  … It is an entertaining blockbuster, but maybe that’s not what it should have been…

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