Everest - Ultra HD Blu-rayOverview -
Inspired by the incredible events surrounding an attempt to reach the summit of the world's highest mountain, Everest documents the awe-inspiring journey of two different expeditions challenged beyond their limits by one of the fiercest snowstorms ever encountered by mankind. Their mettle tested by the harshest elements found on the planet, the climbers will face nearly impossible obstacles as a lifelong obsession becomes a breathtaking struggle for survival.
Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take
"Human beings simply aren't built to function at the cruising altitudes of a seven-forty-seven."
What is it that drives some people to do certain things or perform fantastic feats of skill or strength or demonstrate a particular talent? Some people are driven to the brink of insanity to achieve a goal, risking life and limb in the process. Something clicks in some people's brain that tells them that when they see the highest point on Earth in the most inhospitable place, where not acclimating appropriately can kill them, they must climb to the top. Everest has literally stood as the peak of human endurance. Men have died attempting to be the first to summit Everest as depicted in the exceptional 1924 film 'The Epic of Everest' about the ill-fated attempt by George Mallory and Andrew Irvine and literally hundreds more have died since it was conquered by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay nearly 70 years ago. 'Everest' directed by Baltasar Kormákur recounts one of the most deadly attempts in 1996 when two teams of climbers got caught in a late-season storm on the very peak of Everest.
Veteran climber Rob Hall (Jason Clarke) is no stranger to Mount Everest. Having made seven successful summits, one of which was done with his wife Jan (Keira Knightley), Rob and his business partners Andy Harris (Martin Henderson) and Guy Cotter (Sam Worthington) have turned taking amateur climbers up to the top of Everest a business. Since their company's inception in 1992, they had taken 19 climbers up to the top of the world and back down safely. As their company has grown in popularity, other climbers like Scott Fischer (Jake Gyllenhaal) have followed suit and started their own Everest tour companies creating a virtual traffic jam of climbers on one of the most dangerously unpredictable mountains on the planet.
This year Rob and Andy are taking on some adventurous climbers with Yasuko Namba (Naoko Mori), the famous outdoor journalist Jon Krakauer (Michael Kelly), a pathologist from Texas by the name of Beck Weathers (Josh Brolin) and a returning climber who failed a previous attempt Doug Hansen (John Hawkes). Each of these individuals has his or her own reason for wanting to climb the mountain. As Krakauer probes the group for the article he's writing, it becomes apparent that everyone has their own unexplained reason why they're risking their lives to summit the mountain. Doug says he's doing it for the kids at home so they can believe in accomplishing the impossible, but there's something deeper beyond those words that he holds back for himself.
As the team reaches base camp, they undergo a month-long acclimation process of altitude adjustment and brief treks up and down parts of the mountain so their body's are ready for the hazards to come. Meanwhile, family and loved ones are left at home to wonder and worry. Jan is pregnant with her and Rob's first child, a little girl and Jan is quite eager to have her husband back in time for the birth. Beck is on this climb and missing he and his wife Peach's (Robin Wright) anniversary causing further strain on their marriage.
With family eagerly waiting at home, the team does what they can to prep for their assent, but it becomes clear that there are just too many people on the mountain. In order to cut through the traffic to ensure their May 10th ascent date, Rob and Scott decide to join teams to share the workload. As ready as they are, neither Rob, Scott, or anyone else climbing Everest that day could possibly be prepared for the freak storm that hits right when everyone is trying to come back down. With lives hanging in the balance, Rob's basecamp team lead by Helen Wilton (Emily Watson) and Guy Cutter must do their best to help coordinate the rescue efforts to bring as many climbers as possible back down the mountain alive.
Whenever I see a new movie coming out being marketed as "Based On A True Story" I immediately take it with a grain of salt. After all, that's exactly how they marketed the 2003 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre' remake. Given that caveat, I admit that I wasn't quite prepared for this movie. From the trailers one would expect 'Everest' to be a rip-roaring human adventure film of climbers endangering their lives to climb Mt. Everest; I wasn't ready for it to actually be a reasonably accurate telling of true events. As the film started to play out I began to remember seeing news reports and reading magazine articles about what happened in 1996. While I can't swear to the accuracies of character depictions, I will say that 'Everest' does an incredible job at depicting the events that transpired with a dramatic intensity that grabs your attention and keeps you on the edge of you seat for two hours. I will be appropriately vague about what happens when and to whom because I don't want to spoil the film for anyone who hasn't seen it or already knows the story of what happened to these climbers, so I apologize for any and all future nondescript terminology during this write-up.
Before going into story or performances, 'Everest' needs to be singled out for it's impressive technical achievements in order to place recognizable movie stars on the summit of Mt. Everest. Obviously, a great deal of digital trickery was employed to create many scenes of the film, but what also stands out is the amount of location shooting as far as 16,000 feet up Everest itself as well as in-studio practical effects work. From real locations to digital composites to large-scale sets, this film is a visual feast for the eyes. While there are some slight "Uncanny Vally" moments where the digital compositing doesn't quite work, the rest of the elements come together to create a sense of realism helping the viewer to suspend disbelief that Jason Clarke and the rest of the fine cast are actually climbing Everest.
Then you have the impressive cast of 'Everest' lead by Jason Clarke as Rob Hall, Josh Brolin as Beck Weathers, Naoko Mori as Yasuko Namba, Michael Kelly as Jon Krakauer, and especially the always fantastic John Hawks as Doug Hansen. All of these actors are on point and do an incredible job of sucking you into the film and helping you believe the real peril their true-life counterparts faced. Add in some fantastic supporting turns from Jake Gyllenhaal, Martin Henderson, Emily Watson and Keira Knightley and you have the makings for a grand adventure. When you're dealing with raw emotion on screen it's difficult to nitpick little bits and pieces of an actor's performance, especially when you take into account that this is a retelling of events. Some scenes may feel a little too "Hollywood" at times, but then you have to consider that the filmmakers were working from the actual recordings of radio conversations Rob Hall and his team had with their Everest base camp.
Where 'Everest' stumbles a bit is in the depiction of the tragic events. So much time is spent getting to know the characters and who they are and why they're doing what they're doing that the actual disaster itself feels a bit rushed and shortchanged. While I appreciate the filmmakers wanting to not dwell on the morbidity of some of these people dying, the circumstances surrounding some of the events depicted could have been cleared up. I understand that there are conflicting accounts of events as well as some genuine mystery as to how some things even happened in the first place, but I would have liked the build up to the film's climax to have been handled with a little more ease. The film is incredibly abrupt with its conclusion and seeing the last few moments come to a close left me saying "Wait, what just happened?" The abruptness almost feels like a reel of the film went missing because all of a sudden the epilogue starts rolling. That aside, the rest of the film is a fantastic watch, so don't let my little quibble stop you from considering a viewing.
As a work of drama 'Everest' does a damn fine job at capturing an audience's attention. If you're someone going into this film expecting something along the lines of 'Vertical Limit' or something with a lot more action and adventure, this isn't that movie - even though the trailers did a fair job of making it look that way. My suggestion to anyone considering watching 'Everest' is to go into it as cold (no pun intended) as you can, don't pull up too many trailers and whatever you do don't run this story through Wikipedia! I can say as someone who didn't know much about the film or the historical events going in, 'Everest' works best if you don't know what is going to happen next.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Universal Studios Home Entertainment brings 'Everest' to 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray as a two-disc combo pack with a flyer for a Digital HD Copy. At the moment, we are unable to verify if the correct size of the content, but the double-layered UHD66 disc sits comfortably opposite a Region Free, BD50 disc inside a black keepcase with a glossy slipcover. At startup, the disc goes straight to an interactive menu screen with full-motion clips and music.
Climbers scale the steep, challenging demands of Ultra HD Blu-ray with a gorgeous HEVC H.265 encode in HDR10, offering a noteworthy improvement over the Blu-ray. The movie was shot on the Arri Alexa XT Plus camera system, which per the manufacture shoots natively at 3.2K resolution at Rec.709, with several sequences shot at 6K resolution thanks to the Red Dragon cameras.
The digital 4K presentation arrives with stunning details in the canvas fabric of the tents and in the threading of the thick jackets. The tiniest crevice and pockmark in the rock formations and large clumps of ice are razor sharp, and individual flakes of snow are distinctly visible. Facial complexions arrive with striking lifelike textures, exposing the most minute wrinkle, pore and blemish in the cast.
Presented in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio, the beautiful cinematography of Salvatore Totino enjoys outstanding, pitch-perfect contrast that shows fantastic variation in every frame. Intensely bright whites pop with dazzling luminosity, providing an enthusiastic, true-to-life glow in the fluffy clouds and the snow. Specular highlights are brilliant, making tiny ice crystals in the snow shimmer with natural brilliance in the sunshine while the light of flashlights dazzle in the darkness. Brightness levels are extraordinarily dynamic with precise gradations in the grayscale, delivering pitch-black shadows that never obscure the finer details in the darkest portions.
The 2160p video is also showered with a wide array of sumptuous colors because of the various outfits and tents seen throughout, from rich, animated reds and stunningly vivid blues to bright, energetic oranges and true-to-life yellows. While the rays of afternoon sunshine display lovely soft pinks, hints of magenta and light purples, the ice comes with realistic blue undertones. The differences between the UHD and the Blu-ray are arguably subtle, but they're there and enough to make this 4K version a marked upgrade.
The mountain adventure film comes equipped with the same, terrifically enjoyable Dolby Atmos soundtrack heard on its Blu-ray counterpart, which defaults to Dolby TrueHD 7.1 for those not equipped for the codec.
From the opening moments, imaging feels broad and expansive as background activity fills the entire soundstage with various noises and commotion. From the high-pitched whistling of icy wind to the loud, cracking echoes of glaciers, the soundstage is littered with numerous effects convincingly moving off-screen and from one side to the other. Much of that rumpus, along with Dario Marianelli's score, travels into the front heights, elevating the danger and pandemonium into an awesomely engaging half-dome wall of sound. The mid-range exhibits outstanding detailing and separation during the loudest and most harrowing moments while a powerfully robust low-end delivers a palpable, impactful sense of presence. And a couple of those nicely dig into the ultra-low depths for added realism, as low as 20 - 25Hz in a couple spots (bass chart). All the while, vocals are distinct and clear.
For a good portion of the time, much of the action is kept to the fronts with a few pockets of subtle atmospherics traveling into the side and rear speakers. While the climbers prepare and travel to base camp, the sounds of local wildlife and crowded villagers fill the room with superb directionality. Once the climbing begins, the object-based track really comes alive, as those same icy winds envelope the listener and debris showers all around with flawless, fluid panning. Generating a thrilling, 360° dome-like soundfield with frightening realism, the ceiling channels are frequently used with sudden gusts of air, glaciers cracking in the distance, the blades of a helicopter during a harrowing rescue and the threatening thunder of an imminent storm. In fact, the entire second half of the lossless mix is continuously active with discrete effects moving overhead and all around, making it an excellent complement to the amazing visuals.
In fact, the entire second half of the lossless mix is continuously active with discrete effects moving overhead and all around, making it an excellent complement to the amazing visuals.
- Audio Commentary — Director Baltasar Kormákur rides solo for a decently interesting commentary where the filmmaker shares many of his creative decisions and anecdotes from the set while also elaborating on other aspects of the production.
- Race to the Summit (HD, 11 min) — EPK-like piece with the usual assortment of cast & crew interviews about the production mixed with lots of BTS footage.
- Aspiring to Authenticity (HD, 7 min) — Much too-brief discussion with the real-life survivors and family members sharing their thoughts and memories of the incident.
- A Mountain of Work (HD, 5 min) — A look at the stage production and recreating the disaster at Pinewood Studios in London, England.
- Learning to Climb (HD, 5 min) — One final piece showing the amount of training and work the cast went through to make the action look as realistic as possible.
'Everest' is a hell of a flick. As a recreation of tragic real-life events, the film thankfully doesn't dwell on the morbid nature of what happened but instead takes it as a celebration of living life as well as an appreciation for the effort that was made to rescue the people involved and powerlessness they faced against nature. If you're someone who doesn't know much about what happened on Everest in May of 1996, Do yourself a favor and don't do too much Googling ahead of your viewing, you'll have a better appreciation for the film.
The Ultra HD Blu-ray arrives with a gorgeous and often stunning 4K picture quality, making it a nice upgrade over its Blu-ray counterpart, and the same fantastic, demo-worthy Dolby Atmos presentation. Offering the same collection of supplements, the package is recommended.
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