Everest (Cert 12)
Starring: Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin, John Hawkes, Robin Wright, Emily Watson, Keira Knightley, Sam Worthington, Jake Gyllenhaal, Martin Henderson, Elizabeth Debicki.
Rob Hall (Jason Clarke) and Scott Fischer (Jake Gyllenhaal) lead competing expeditions on Everest, racing against one another and the elements to ensure their clients safely reach the peak.
Unlike his rival, Rob takes a fastidious and cautious approach to each ascent with his company Adventure Consultants, promising his pregnant wife Jan (Keira Knightley) that he will return for the birth of their daughter.
His base camp team includes mother hen Helen Wilton (Emily Watson), medic Caroline Mackenzie (Elizabeth Debicki) and fellow guide Andy Harris (Martin Henderson).
During an ill-fated May 1996 expedition, a fierce storm rumbles nearby, threatening to trap the climbers on the rock face. “There is competition between every person and this mountain. The last word always belongs to the mountain,” pointedly observes one of the guides.
Based on true events, Everest is a slickly orchestrated recreation of an ill-fated ascent to 29,029 feet above sea level, where altitude sickness silently stalks the most experienced climbers.
Icelandic director Baltasar Kormakur’s film doesn’t quite scale the dizzy emotional heights to which it aspires and it’s not always easy to distinguish characters when tragedy strikes in the eye of a storm, but there is no escaping the nerve-racking suspense that holds us in a vice-like grip.
Performances are occasionally lost to the roar of the sub-zero wind but Watson certainly wrings out tears that remain frozen for other cast members.
The 3D version, available exclusively on Blu-ray, adds a vertiginous, stomach-churning extra dimension to this high-wire fight for survival.
The Visit (Cert 15)
Starring: Olivia DeJonge, Ed Oxenbould, Deanna Dunagan, Peter McRobbie, Kathryn Hahn, Jorge Cordova.
Rebecca (Olivia DeJonge) and her scaredy-cat younger brother Tyler (Ed Oxenbould) prepare to spend a week in the country with grandparents they have never met. This estrangement stems from an unspoken incident that their single mother (Kathryn Hahn) refuses to discuss.
“I did something that I choose not to tell you,” she explains nervously. While the mother spends quality time with her new boyfriend Miguel (Jorge Cordova), the children travel by train to meet their Nana (Deanna Dunagan) and Pop-Pop (Peter McRobbie).
Initially, the children are charmed by the old-fashioned ways of the grandparents and when the old folks retire early to bed, Rebecca and Tyler remain in their room.
Late one night, the siblings hear strange sounds and they venture into the darkness to investigate... Shot through the lens of Rebecca’s omnipresent video camera,
The Visit is a half-baked horror thriller that is devoid of jump-out-of-your-skin scares. Creeping tension is restricted to one scene in the kitchen that teasingly suggests writer-director M Night Shyamalan is remaking a Brothers Grimm fairytale. Sadly, his intention is more mundane.
Stylistic suspensions of disbelief would be tolerable if Shyamalan’s script wasn’t pocked with gaping plot holes and preposterous lapses in logic.
In particular, he asks us to accept that one character would be negligent and fail to share a basic yet essential piece of information, in order to engineer the film’s ridiculous final act.
It’s all a long way from the impeccable style and twists of the filmmaker’s celebrated third feature, The Sixth Sense.