The story of the 1914-1916 Antarctic exploration mission of Sir Ernest Shackleton. The ship sails south, breaking the ice, and ultimately getting trapped by the fast-changing weather. The ... See full summary »
Guy Pringle and his new wife, Harriet, are members of the English community in Bucharest, Rumania on the eve of World War II. The film catalogs and chronicles, after the war begins, the ... See full summary »
When Ernest Shackleton is given the ship Endurance to reclaim the record for the furthest south expedition, his journey is cut short when his ship becomes trapped in the ice pack and begins... See full summary »
Captain Frank Worsley signs on as Captain of the Endurance to navigate Sir Ernest Shackleton and his crew to Antarctica. When the expedition ship is crushed; Worsley's seamanship and navigational skills saves them all.
I've not visited Antarctica, but I'm told by those who have that its austere beauty grows on you; far from being a frozen hell, it is a land where one can get closer to oneself and the meaning of things. This film uses Greenland for location shooting and is a dramatised version of Shackleton's 1914-16 expedition which started out as an attempt to cross the continent from the Weddel Sea to the Ross Sea, but, after the expedition vessel `Endurance' was first trapped and then crushed in the Weddel Sea ice pack, Shackleton and his party of 28 men, their dogs and one cat, were caught in a grim struggle for survival.
The first 100 minutes is concerned with the origins of the expedition, and Shackleton's efforts to raise support and prepare for it. The son of an Irish country doctor, he served in the Merchant Navy, but by 1914 he was a very experienced polar explorer, having been on two major earlier expeditions; he was in fact the Englishman who had been closest to the South Pole and survived. Although the first half drags at times, Kenneth Branagh's full-on performance as Shackleton gives us a clear picture of the sort of man he is, ambitious, hard-driving, single-minded, yet one who genuinely cares for the men under his command. He is even aware of the effect his exploration obsession is having on his family life (not to mention his relationship with his mistress), but he plows on regardless.
In the second half we are stuck on the polar pack ice, and the story turns into a conventional ripping yarn, but it is told with economy and a certain amount of humour. It is clear that, apart from luck, Shackleton and his men (the animals, alas, did not make it) owed their survival to Shackleton's good judgment and the fact that he was able to get all of them to rise to the occasion. He might have been slightly mad to get into such a fix to begin with, but he had no wish to suffer the fate of his colleague Captain Scott.
Branagh dominates the film of course, but his crew, mostly made up of little-known actors, come through as characters in their own right. Several stand out; Ken Drury as McNiesh, the feisty ship's carpenter, Kevin McNally as Worsley the lugubrious skipper, Celyn Jones as the Welsh stowaway Blackborow, and Nicholas Rowe as Colonel, the expedition odd-man-out. It is melancholy to recall, that several of the crew survived the Antarctic only to die in the trenches in France. Matt Day as the Australian photographer Frank Hurley, who produced some unforgettable images of the trip, also puts in a strong performance. The characters at home seem bloodless by comparison, with the exception of Phoebe Nicholl's determined Lady Shackleton. One wonders how Lord Curzon, that very superior person, who presided over the very tight-fisted Royal Geographical Society (nicely played by Corin Redgrave) would have got by on the expedition.
In 1922 Shackleton went back once more to the Antarctic but died of a heart attack at the whaling station on South Georgia before he was able to set off for the ice. He was only 48. Clearly, the attraction was more than fame and fortune he was in love with the place. Since then the whalers have gone and Antarctic is now the preserve of scientists and a small but growing number of tourists. Latter-day Shackletons have no great geographical questions to solve but still persist on doing things like trying to ski across the continent. I think I'll settle for the tourist ship myself, but it's vaguely comforting to know there are still such people around.
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