While climbing documentaries like Touching the Void can please the cognoscenti, feature films like Silvester Stallone’s laughable Cliffhanger rarely do. Baltasar Kormakur’s Everest, based on Jon Krakauer’s book Into Thin Air, manages to combine the best elements of the documentary and feature film to create technical credibility which supports a well handled narrative. According to The Australian, Kormakur understood the film’s challenge as he looked up from Base Camp: “the volume of the mountain was just so immense and I was thinking: how can I possibly get this on film?”

The story Krakauer tells is well known; the pull of Everest turning into the push to the summit which led to fatal decisions being made. 3D is employed to create stunning effects; the sheer bulk of the mountain, the way the Western Cwm leads to the South Col and the steep ridges and drops are well conveyed in dizzying shots, and the 3D sequences are worth a million words. The retreat in the storm is the climax of the film and wince worthy as frozen hands are put into hot water and patched phone calls communicate the pathos of the moment.

Climbing feature films are usually made by non-climbers for non-climbers with little care for realism; but Everest is by a diligent director for the climber, and the actors, many of whom climbed in preparation, carry the story very well.

Running time: 121 minutes. Rated M (mature themes).