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It’s hard to believe the harrowing human journey depicted in “Everest” actually happened, and it’s impossible to imagine a more effective retelling of it.

Director Baltasar Kormákur puts his audience smack in the middle of the beauty and peril of a 1996 storm during which eight climbers died on Mount Everest. Among an ensemble of fine actors including Josh Brolin and Keira Knightley, the main focus is on Jason Clarke and Jake Gyllenhaal as expedition leaders Rob Hall and Scott Fischer. The two would count five fatalities between their parties by the end of the trip.

There are gripping scenes of peril in the early going, as an avalanche strikes and climbers cross icy crevasses on shaking strings of aluminum ladders. There’s a certain lack of buildup in these early scenes, but that’s because Kormákur is merely setting the table for the symphony of disaster that comes once the climbers reach the summit.

If you weren’t already enthralled by the danger and natural splendor depicted in the first hour or so of the film, the back half will rivet you as the fateful storm rolls in. The leads acquit themselves well in major emotional moments, effectively underpinning a descent sequence already fraught with suspense as the climbers face down the possibility of death.

Shot partly on location in Italy’s Dolomite Mountains, this is one of those very, very rare movies worth the price of an IMAX 3D ticket. You’ll feel the sting of the snow, shudder at the rumble of the wind and marvel at the audacity of the people insane enough to make this climb. “Everest” is a truly spectacular experience that deserves to be seen on the grandest scale possible.

‘Everest’

GRADE: A-

Rated PG-13 for intense peril and disturbing images

Running time: 121 minutes

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