Why go to watch Everest? Because it’s here at Royston’s Picture Palace, of course

Jake Gyllenhaal is among the stars of Everest

Jake Gyllenhaal is among the stars of Everest - Credit: Archant

If you’re fondly dreaming of a white Christmas, it’s a fair bet that you don’t have your fingers crossed for the sort of ordeal by snow and ice facing the many stars who clutter the cast list of Everest.

You might think it’s quite enough of a winter challenge to get to work safely and on time when there’s more than a dusting of snow on the roads, but this spectacular plonks an assortment of characters half way up the highest mountain in the world, chucks in a terrible storm and sees what happens.

Well, we actually know what happens, because it’s all based on a true story.

Director Baltasar Kormákur has the action thrillers Contraband and 2 Guns in his back catalogue, but neither of those efforts could have been accused of too much depth or deft exposition of character.

Now he’s trying his hand at a full-blown disaster movie and although some of the set-pieces are spectacular it’s still not the peak production he was probably hoping for.

The film was considered important enough to open this year’s Venice film festival, and it tells of an ill-fated attempt to scale Everest back in 1996, before the days when the peak became so crowded with climbers that some critics say the challenge that pits man against mountain is now a sanitised struggle.

It certainly wasn’t that way 20 years ago, when setting your sights on the ultimate high really meant taking your life in your hands – particularly if the weather was against you.

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Kormákur serves up a drama with plenty of ice, snow, high winds and desperation, but the setting is a handicap – the stranded stars who include Jake Gyllenhaal, Josh Brolin and Jason Clarke are lost in furry hoods and hidden behind big sunglasses and bushy beards, so that it’s sometimes hard to tell who is who.

Back on the home front, loved ones including Keira Knightley and Robin Wright can do little but huddle around a radio waiting for news, with Emma Watson their base camp link to the men fighting to make it back alive with rudimentary equipment and overheated dialogue.

There are two performances of the film at Royston’s Picture Palace this week – on Friday and Saturday, both at 7.30pm. You can reserve tickets online at www.roystonpicturepalace.org.uk.

Coming up later this month will be Robert Redford and Nick Nolte buddying up on a country trail in A Walk In The Woods and much praised Ridley Scott sci-fi drama The Martian, with Matt Damon the botanist stranded on the Red Planet and trying to stay alive.