Jason Clarke and Jake Gyllenhaal lead rival expeditions up Mount Everest in this sober, unsentimental account of the 1996 disaster.

Capturing the awe and terror of the world’s highest mountain with heart-stopping intensity, director Baltasar Kormákur’s movie puts us in the crampons of the climbers. Even if you have prior knowledge of the fates of Clarke’s rugged New Zealander Rob Hall and Gyllenhaal’s laid-back American Scott Fischer and their clients, this remains utterly gripping.

The contrasting climbers include brash Texan millionaire Beck Weathers (Josh Brolin), diffident postman Doug Hansen (John Hawkes) and single-minded author Jon Krakauer (Michael Kelly).

What they go through when they’re trapped by a blizzard is truly harrowing, but the film steers clear of melodrama and the usual disaster movie clichés to convey their ordeal with bone-chilling immediacy.

As the wind whips and howls around the summit, you really do feel you are there on the mountain – and desperately thankful that you are not.

Meanwhile, base camp manager Helen Wilton (Emily Watson), mission doctor Caroline Mackenzie (Elizabeth Debicki), Hall’s pregnant wife Jan Arnold (Keira Knightley) and Weathers’ no-nonsense spouse Peach (a near-unrecognisable Robin Wright) helplessly wait as the tragedy unfolds.