Everest, which opened Friday, Sept. 18, is a biopic which tells the story of Rob Hall and his company, Adventure Consultants. Hall’s tragic assent to Mount Everest’s summit on May 10, 1996, with co-workers and clients was a harrowing experience. The adventurers made it to the summit but a storm hit as they descended back to the fourth forward camp, trapping many climbers on the mountain.

The cast of Everest is an ensemble of talent and one of the movie’s saving graces. Jake Gyllenhaal, Josh Brolin, Keira Knightley and Sam Worthington are the more well known actors in the movie and they all do very good jobs adding life to wooden characters. The true standout though, is Jason Clarke portraying Hall.

Hall is a passionate man determined to ensure each of his clients fulfill their dreams of reaching Everest’s summit. It feels like Hall isn’t just concerned with making money off his clients. He genuinely cares about them as people and wants to see them succeed. This compassion is his strength for most of the movie but near the finale it becomes a weakness that leads to tragedy. Mount Everest does not forgive weakness.

Mount Everest is almost a character itself in the movie. The director and writers took great care in showing not only Everest’s beauty, but also its cruel indifference to the climbers challenging it. The visuals are stunning; deep bottomless crags and towering snow capped cliffs are well created and the visual effects fit seamlessly with actual footage filmed in Italy. The beauty contrasts the danger perfectly.

Early on in the movie Hall explains to his clients that Mount Everest is one of the most dangerous places on the planet. The human body is not built to survive at those elevations. Lack of preparation, illness, and injury can kill anyone not strong enough to face the challenge.

Throughout the movie, members of Adventure Consultants see the bodies of dead climbers along the path. As well as sick and injured climbers being carried down the mountain away from danger. These touches, though small, personify Mount Everest.

If only the writing had been better. Everest was undone by horrible characterization. The only fully fleshed out character was Hall; he had a complete character arc. Everyone else was just checked off the cliché character checklist; browbeating jerk rich guy (check), concerned pregnant wife waiting at home for husband to return (check), dopey Zen hippie (check), and so on.

Everest has a two hour running time, but it would have been a much better movie with an additional 30 minutes used to flesh out these characters. This amazing cast was wasted on such weak characters. This might seem like a minor complaint, but great characters are the most important element to telling a great story.

As a whole, Everest is worth seeing. Probably not worth a full price viewing but it’s worth an early bird or matinée.