Baltasar Kormakur’s riveting Everest tells to emotionally gripping and physically laborious story of true-like hikers who braved the elements to ascend Mt. Everest in 1996… with only a few members of the team making it back down to the bottom. One such member who is portrayed in the film is author and reporter Jon Krakauer, who wrote about the expedition in his best-selling book Into Thin Air. Yet, even though Krakauer is a character in the movie (portrayed by Michael Kelly), the man himself has real problems with the film and actually refers to it as "total bull."
Jon Krakauer takes particular umbrage with the way that he is portrayed in a very specific scene in the movie. Spoilers for Everest will follow from here on out. After the expedition has gone to shit, a handful of survivors have made it back to a base camp, Krakauer being one of them. When the hikers learn that their guide (played by Jason Clarke) is still alive, Krakauer is asked to go back up the mountainside and help rescue the man. He claims that he can not, however, because he is suffering from snow blindness.
Krakauer says this interaction never happened, explaining:
I never had that conversation. [Our Russian guide] came to several tents, and not even sherpas could go out. I’m not saying I could have, or would have. What I’m saying is, no one came to my tent and asked.
This quote was given to the L.A. Times, who caught up with Jon Krakauer as Everest was performing at the multiplexes. The screenplay for the film is credited to William Nicholson and Simon Beaufoy, and Krakauer – who, at the time, was writing for Outside Magazine -- tells the Times that no one ever consulted him about his time spent on the mountain, and that Kelly never consulted with him about the writer’s own experiences. He even goes so far as to say that he regrets ever going on the trip, stating to the Times:
Everest is not real climbing. It’s rich people climbing. It’s a trophy on the wall, and they’re done. When I say I wish I’d never gone, I really mean that.
Historical dramas often get small details wrong. With Jon Krakauer, you can understand why he would be upset. The scene sort of makes him look like a coward, even though, in those ridiculously harsh weather conditions, I found it very easy to understand why a man who had just returned to the safety of a tent would hesitate to head back into the cold under any circumstances.
Everest director Baltasar Kormakur sent a statement to the L.A. Times stating that the intention of the scene was meant to convey the helplessness of the survivors in an impossible situation, and that the screenwriters pored over multiple examples of source material to find "a fair point of view" from which to tell the movie.
Whether fully accurate or not, I found Everest to be compelling, dramatic and terrifying, particularly in the IMAX 3D format. But I don’t think Jon Krakauer will be giving the studio any quotes that they will want to put on posters of the DVD box any time soon.