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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Everest is a disaster film based on the actual events of May 10, 1996 -- which was then considered the deadliest day on the mountain, claiming eight lives, including those of experienced guides. Viewers will feel intense, harrowing peril as the climbers attempt the summit and then descend during an unexpected blizzard. And scenes of characters dying and succumbing to the elements are viscerally upsetting. There are a couple of scenes of adults drinking, some mild language ("damn," "Jesus" as an exclamation), and plenty of high-end alpine gear on display. For those who are old enough to remember the disaster, the movie feels tragic from the start. But ultimately this is a moving story about the risks involved in reaching your dream -- and how sometimes helping someone else can come at a huge risk to your own safety.
What's the story?
EVEREST is the retelling of the tragic events surrounding the May 10, 1996, disaster that claimed eight lives on Earth's highest peak. Inspired by multiple narratives of what was then the deadliest day on Mt. Everest, the film focuses on New Zealand guide Rob Hall (Jason Clarke), whose Adventure Consultants team hoped to get clients -- including Outside magazine journalist Jon Krakauer (Michael Kelly), Texan doctor Beck Weathers (Josh Brolin), and modest mail carrier Doug Hansen (John Hawkes) -- to the summit. But during the acclimatizing time at Base Camp, Hall discovered the mountain was chock full of other commercial guides, like laid-back American Scott Fischer (Jake Gyllenhaal), who was leading his own high-profile reporter, socialite Sandy Pittman (Vanessa Kirby), and other paying clients. Then, on May 10, when both teams headed up the busy mountain, small setbacks -- coupled with an unexpected blizzard -- led to a catastrophe so memorable that it led to dozens of memoirs and years of debate about the place of commercial guided mountaineering on the world's riskiest peaks.
Is it any good?
As viscerally intense as Gravity and tinged with the same level of inevitable doom as The Perfect Storm, this is a fittingly harrowing depiction of a most tragic day in mountaineering history. Those familiar with Krakauer's Into Thin Air , David Breashears IMAX documentary, or the countless other stories and memoirs about May 10, 1996, will find the story spot on in its facts, without veering too much into controversy or assigning blame to anyone involved. The entire cast is wonderful: Clarke is perfectly cast as organized, detail-oriented Hall, as is Gyllenhaal as Hall's foil, ski bum/mountaineer Fischer, and Keira Knightley as Hall's pregnant wife, Jan Arnold, who stayed behind in New Zealand.
Director Baltasar Kormákur (2 Guns) makes good use of 3D during the climbing scenes and ramps up the tension around the idea that every single step could lead to doom or death. One of the only disappointments is that, with their full gear on, most of the characters are hard to distinguish, unless you memorize who wore the North Face versus the Marmot or Patagonia. Also, don't expect much back story for anyone but Hall and the uber-Texan Weathers, whose matronly wife Peach is played by a miscast Robin Wright. Hall's plotline works well, but Weathers' feels overdone with Lone Star aggrandizement. Despite these minor quibbles, the movie delivers on most fronts; if your stomach can handle the unnerving life-and-death nature of the story, Everest is respectful and realistic, affecting and difficult to forget.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how movies like Everest depict tragic historical events. Is it harder to watch disturbing death scenes knowing they really happened? How much scary stuff can kids handle?
How important is historical accuracy in a movie based on actual events? Why might filmmakers decide to change some facts? How can you find out more about what really happened?
What are Everest's messages about the physical and emotional risks of mountaineering? What are your thoughts about the commercial aspect of climbing Everest?
- In theaters: September 18, 2015
- On DVD or streaming: January 19, 2016
- Cast: Josh Brolin, Jake Gyllenhaal, John Hawkes
- Director: Baltasar Kormakur
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Science and nature
- Character strengths: Courage, Perseverance
- Run time: 121 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: intense peril and disturbing images
- Awards/Honors: Common Sense Seal
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