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It’s nice to be blown out of one’s cinema seat. The effects in Everestalmost do that: especially if you like sitting close to 3D movies — count me in — where the immediacy feels sense-threatening, even life-threatening. Based on the 1996 true disaster that ended eight lives, this Imax epic stars almost every actor you can think of currently poised over the ravine between A-list and B-list. Jake Gyllenhaal and Jason Clarke are rival guides, Josh Brolin and John Hawkes paying climbers. Emily Watson “mans” the helpline connecting crisis warriors to their waiting women (Robin Wright, Keira Knightley). Blink and you miss Sam Worthington.
Hard not to blink. We advance in the teeth of everything nature, location and special effects can throw at us, as Icelandic director Baltasar Kormákur cries “Mush, mush” to William Gladiator Nicholson and Simon Full Monty Beaufoy’s script. Up crags; across ravines; through keening soprano winds and full-bass snow storms. The opera doesn’t end till the fat mountain sings.
Only near the end do we start shouting “Mush, mush” back. The film tries to melt tear-ducts honourably toughened by the sentimentality-icing action. Phones kiss phones in last-breath, improvised hook-ups between dying and dearest; a true-life near-miracle (no spoilers) is played for full emotional monty. Never mind. It’s mostly terrific until that. Schmaltz-free but not shock-free, horror-free, wonder-free.