Saturday, September 26, 2015

Everest, Cop Car, The Green Inferno

You know, I wrote the big thing on K2 below without even realizing that there was a new Everest movie opening this weekend? I certainly had no idea that I'd be seeing it the next night. It's a respectful representation of a story that has been told many times, about a singularly disastrous climbing season on Mt. Everest of 1996. If you've read any of the four or five books written by survivors of the season - like Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air or its necessary, equally fascinating corrective, Anatoli Boukreev's The Climb, there are various points where you'd be right to be concerned that the film would cheat, and by that I mean, that they'd succumb to the temptation to make a big Hollywood rescue of people who, in real life, died; many of the main characters do. Thankfully, they do not do this; they tell the story pretty much as it happened, and tell it reasonably well, with some magnificent visuals and a fair bit of emotional honesty, at least in regard the characters who they do follow closely (mostly Rob Hall and Beck Weathers). The film falls short of being a great movie, in that it doesn't take us very far inside any of its characters - it's spread a little thin, and plays things a bit too safe, for that; it misses, for example, a chance to take us inside whatever went wrong between Krakauer and Boukreev, which would have been a natural thing to address. It also doesn't seem to have a whole lot to say about mountain climbing or its commercialization, taking no strong positions or offering any profound insights, so those who have read Krakauer's account, or Boukreev's, or Gammelgaard's, or (...I will leave out the names of authors whose survival will count as a spoiler), will not really be surprised by the film. I can't pinpoint many other places where Everest could have been improved, mind you, but it would have been interesting to invest a little bit more into the backstories of, say, Yasuko Namba (the first Japanese woman to reach the summit of Everest, played by Naoko Mori) and Doug Hansen, a mailman played with great nuance by the ever-watchable John Hawkes; they're two of the most interesting people to have attempted the summit but don't get a whole lot of screen time. There's not even much done with the story of Scott Fischer - wasting Jake Gyllenhall a bit. It would have been maybe (SPOILER! Skip italicized section if you're concerned) too depressing to do this, since all three of these people died, so making us care more about them than we do would produce a devastating downer of a film, rather than a reasonably bankable commodity; it was "brave enough" for the filmmakers that they show us one character they've fleshed out dying a slow, tragic death, without really piling on the grief. Ultimately, it's a safe film, maybe not quite as emotionally powerful as it could have/ should have been. Still, it's impressive to watch and not badly made, so....

Have to get ready to go out but just quickly, Cop Car is a treat, a small but nearly perfect film that I want to say nothing about, that you should just go see at its next VIFF screening. (Okay, I think Shea Whigham, whom I usually like, goes a little too broad and clownish for his role. Camryn Manheim - the penis-severer in Todd Solondz' Happiness, 'member? - is fun, though. Kevin Bacon fans will be happy. Mostly the movie is about the kids. They're great).

And I'm going to see The Green Inferno today! Yaaah!

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