There are plenty of arresting visuals in Everest—mountaineers plummeting into the abyss, massive avalanches, a high-altitude superstorm, Keira Knightley—but the best scene is one of the quietest. In a dimly lit mess tent, climbers huddle around a dinner table, sipping chhaang from tin cups, when journalist Jon Krakauer (played by actor Michael Kelly) hits his crew with the money question.
“It hurts, it’s dangerous… Why are you doing this?” he asks. No one provides a good answer, and the awkward exchange is one of the most believable moments in the action flick, which rips along like Mad Max hitting the Himalayas.
Producing the $55 million feature film, which opens on September 18, was an adventure in itself. Much of it was shot on location in Nepal and Val Senales, a ski resort in Italy’s Dolomites. Longtime Everest guides David Breashears, Guy Cotter, and David Morton were on board to provide mountain footage and consult about safety and climbing details. Some scenes in Nepal were filmed as high as 16,000 feet, while in the Dolomites the cast and crew were airlifted by helicopter into avalanche-prone terrain. “This project attracted people of similar minds,” Jake Gyllenhaal told me. “You don’t just have actors sitting in their trailers. You have people who are physical and want to do some crazy shit.”