Black Mass: Survival becomes more important in Ev…

Over the years I’ve enjoyed eccentric documentaries about Brian Blessed’s attempts to reach the summit (any lump of geography that can defeat the indomitable Blessed not once but three times surely demands respect), scholarly American documentaries about the so-called ‘death zone’ (above 26,000ft, the air is so thin it’s as if the mountain is trying to suffocate you), and touching documentaries about the search for Mallory and Irvine’s bodies.

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Everest has many exciting ideas that the story could have been anchored on. It begins with a tense conversation between Rob Hall (Jason Clarke) and Scott Fischer (Jake Gyllenhaal), two experienced mountaineers. Scott believes that Rob has poached the journalist who was part of his team — one who had previously agreed to write about his business. Circumstances, however, force them to cooperate with each other. Just when we rub our palms in anticipation of the possible ego tussle, the focus shifts to Doug Hansen (John Hawkes), a mailman, who had previously come very close to scaling the mountain before failing. We empathise with him, but the narrative suddenly shifts to a 46-year-old Japanese woman, who has so far scaled six out of the world’s top seven summits, and wants to achieve her landmark by conquering Everest.

See the problem? The film fails to stick to one core idea around which drama and suspense could have been built; but the temptation is understandable, considering how, like in real life, almost all the character arcs are pregnant with drama. But the constant shift in focus makes it hard to identify with any one character.