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Everest: a movie review

Ryan Denison is the Senior Fellow for Theology at Denison Forum, where he contributes writing and research to many of the ministry’s productions.

He is in the final stages of earning his PhD in church history at BH Carroll Theological Institute after having earned his MDiv at Truett Seminary. Ryan has also taught at BH Carroll and Dallas Baptist University.

He and his wife, Candice, live in East Texas and have two children.

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Everest trailer: Watch Jake Gyllenhaal and Jason Clarke fight for their lives in movie based on 1996 Mount Everest disaster (Credit: Universal Pictures)

{source}<iframe style=”float: left; border: 1px solid #000000; background-color: #c0c0c0; padding: 2px; margin: 10px; -moz-border-radius: 3px; -khtml-border-radius: 3px; -webkit-border-radius: 3px; border-radius: 3px;” width=”400″ height=”225″ src=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/5ZQVpPiOji0?rel=0″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>{/source}Everest, Universal’s latest offering depicting the true story of Rob Hall and his team’s 1996 fight against the elements atop Mount Everest, opened this past weekend in select IMAX theaters around the nation. The film will be released in all formats on Friday and, while the IMAX 3D version was visually stunning, the movie is also worth seeing in standard formats for those that would rather not pay twice as much for a ticket.

In Everest, Rob Hall (played by Jason Clarke) is the founder and lead guide of a group called Adventure Consultants who help thrill-seeking mountaineers scale the world’s tallest mountain. Their business is based on the willingness of individuals to pay upwards of $60,000 for the chance to say they reached the top. And while they don’t guarantee the opportunity to make that final push to the summit, they also go into the film boasting that, in addition to guiding thirty-nine climbers to the top, they’ve never had anyone die in the process of trying.

That said, survival is never guaranteed. Hall warns his clients from the start that “human beings simply aren’t built to function at the cruising altitudes of a seven-forty-seven,” later telling them that when they start the climb “our bodies will be literally dying.” But for those willing to travel across the world and pay such extravagant amounts for the opportunity to go head-to-head with nature, the risk is often one of the main appeals. That such desires for danger are not uncommon is made clear when the team reaches the base camp to find it overcrowded with other groups that have copied Hall’s model.

Scott Fischer (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) leads one such team and they eventually join Hall’s group in an attempt to mitigate some of the potential complications posed by the large number of would-be climbers. As they set out, it becomes apparent that any competition they may have with other mountaineers pales in comparison to the competition they have with the mountain. As one character notes early on, “Nature always has the last word.”

To say more about the plot would bring us dangerously close to spoilers, though that is perhaps a strange fear given that the film is based on a true story. However, if you are already aware of Hall’s story, go into the movie knowing that the film crew tried very hard to be accurate but there is only so much of the account that can be depicted in two hours. If you do not know Hall’s story, I would encourage you to read up on it after you see the film as it is rather remarkable. Journalist Jon Krakauer, who accompanied the team in their attempt to reach the summit, also wrote a book called Into Thin Air recounting the journey.

While there are several possible takeaways from the movie, something Roger Ebert wrote in his review of the film has stuck with me. He described how, while leaving the theater, he listened as several of his fellow moviegoers spoke of what they would have done differently had they been on their way up Everest that fateful day. As he listened, he thought, “I rather doubt that the filmmakers’ aim in making this picture was to excite the vanity of its audience. The point, as far as I understand it, isn’t ‘You could live if you did things differently than X‘ but rather that even the best-prepared are not really prepared” (emphasis his).

I agree that if the film had a central teaching, humanity’s ultimate futility in the face of nature would be it. However, the same thing could be said in other areas of our lives as well. Scripture clearly teaches that no amount of careful planning or prudent thinking can guarantee success or long life (Luke 12:16-21; most of Ecclesiastes). The thing is, we often hear that as a negative. Yet, the Bible usually tells of our inability to control tomorrow not to fill us with dread over death’s inevitability but to free us from our fears of the future so that we might live today to its fullest. That tomorrow is not guaranteed should not give us cause to dread the end of today but rather to embrace all that this day can offer. It is still important to steward well the time and resources God has given us, but if our focus ever shifts so heavily towards the future that we lose sight of the present, we have gone too far.

As Corrie Ten Boom once said, “Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow. It empties today of its strength.” While we may not be doing anything today as potentially dangerous as climbing a mountain, I know there are few days where I can afford to lose any part of the strength God provides. That’s why it is so important that we live each day focused on what the Lord wants to do now rather than on what tomorrow might bring. So where is your focus today?

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