Tuesday, January 19, 2016

DVD Review: Everest Combo Pack

It isn't often that we get a mountaineering film on the big screen in our local theaters, but that is exactly what we got last September when Universal Studios released Everest, a movie that tells the story of the infamous 1996 season on the world's highest peak. For many of us, that story is well known, particularly since it was chronicled so well in Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air. But a big screen dramatization of those events was a major risk for any Hollywood production house, particularly since mainstream audiences don't really flock to the theater to see this type of film. Critically, Everest did well, but unfortunately that didn't translate to big box office numbers, and the film didn't even manage to make it'd production budget back. That's a real shame, as it really is a well crafted film that I think many people will enjoy, and I said as much when I reviewed it months back. 

If you missed Everest when it was in theaters, now is your chance to make up for it. The movie releases today on DVD and Blu-Ray after having already been available for a few weeks on popular digital streaming services like iTunes. I received an advanced copy of the DVD, and while I will say that there is nothing like seeing this movie on a massive IMAX screen, the translation to our home theaters is a good one as well.

My review copy was the DVD "combo pack." That means that it comes with three discs – standard DVD, Blu-Ray, and Blu-Ray 3D – as well as a code to download the digital version as well. As you would expect, watching the move in HD with the Blu-Ray is spectacular, with great picture quality and sound. The epic scope that was conveyed in the theater still comes through here too, albeit on a scale that is designed to fit on your television screen and not a giant theater. 

As great as the scenery is in Everest – and trust me, it's pretty great – the thing that will stay with you long after you've seen the film is the performances by the principle actors. The movie is filled with stars, including Josh Brolin, Kiera Knightly, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Robin Wright. But Jason Clarke, who plays Rob Hall, delivers a stand out portrayal of the famous mountain guide, and his scene near the end of the film with Knightly (you know the one!) is heart wrenching. Those great performances come through just fine on the small screen, keeping me just as captivated in my living room as they did in the theater. 

The DVD comes with some compelling extras, particularly for those of us who are into the whole Everest scene to begin with. There are short documentaries that tell us what the actors had to go through to appear to know what they were doing in the climbing scenes, and others that go into detail on how the film was made, including a look at the great lengths that the crew went to to make it appear as if they were actually on Everest circa the mid-1990's. Director Balthasar Korm├íkur even provides a commentary track, which I haven't listened to as I watched the film just yet. I'm sure it contains even more interesting facts about the production though. 

If you're a regular reader of this blog, and you haven't seen Everest yet, you probably should rectify that situation soon. Even if you already know the story, it is still worth a watch, as the cinematography, landscapes, and acting are all top notch. Having been to Everest Base Camp myself, I truly enjoyed seeing the scenes that were filmed in Nepal, as it brought back great memories of trekking through the Khumbu Valley a few years back. This movie makes you feel like you are there, even when they are high up on the mountain, struggling to overcome the Hillary Step on their way to the summit. 

Available now, Everest makes a great addition to anyone's personal library of films. That is especially true however if you know what it takes to climb the mountain. I suspect that more than a few of you reading this review fall into that category. Considering the lukewarm reception that the film received at the box-office, it may be awhile before we see another mountaineering film such as this one get made. Enjoy this one to its fullest. 

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