Shackleton's Antarctic Adventure is a giant-screen film that tells the dramatic true story of explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton's now-legendary 1914-1916 British Imperial Trans-Antarctic ... See full summary »
In 1914, as the shadow of the First World War fell across Europe, an expedition led by veteran explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton set out to become the first to traverse the Antarctic continent... See full summary »
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A retelling of Sir Ernest Shackleton 's ill-fated expedition to Antarctica in 1914-1916, featuring new footage of the actual locations and interviews with surviving relatives of key ... See full summary »
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This is a worthy drama, relating in reasonably accurate terms, the story of Sir Ernest Shackleton's expedition to the Antarctic in 1914/16. Ironically, though this expedition failed, it probably gained more fame for its leader than if it had succeeded. Amundsen had already reached the South Pole in 1912; and Scott had tragically perished with his colleagues in the same year; so Shackleton's aim was not just to reach the Pole, but to cross the continent. But his ship, the Endurance, got stuck in the pack-ice and eventually went down. Shackleton's fame rests on his untiring efforts to lead his team of about 30 men to safety, which after two years he finally did - not a man was lost.
Kenneth Branagh, who physically resembles Shackleton, plays the man in full British hero mode, though at the same time he displays his human side, and the obsessive streak which drove him first to organise the expedition in the face of much opposition; and then to make a priority of saving himself and his men, when the Antarctic crossing became impossible. It was as though Shackleton could feel the ghost of Scott urging him on.
Much of the first of the film's two parts is taken up with Shackleton's private life; not only do we meet his wife Emily (Phoebe Nicholls) and children, but his mistress Rosalind Chetwynd (Embeth Davidtz), and his brother Frank (Mark Tandy) who embarrassingly was serving a gaol term for an unconnected fraud while Shackleton was trying to raise money for his venture. But most of all in the first episode, we learn how difficult it was for Shackleton to convince private sponsors and organisations like the Royal Geographical Society to support him.
The expedition itself is covered in the second part, when we see how after the Endurance became stuck, the team had to camp on the ice for months before rowing 800 miles in small boats, to Elephant Island. From there, Shackleton with a few others sailed, again in a small boat, to South Georgia. Even then, he had to scale and descend a difficult mountain to reach help. We then cut to the rescue of the men on Elephant Island, and we are informed only via voice-over that this eventual rescue was achieved only at the fourth attempt. It would have been more satisfying to see some of this final portion of the tale related in visuals, with some of the preliminary scenes in the first episode being cut - but production and budgetary considerations probably played a part in this.
All the acting is of a high order; but particular mention should be made of Matt Day in the key role of Frank Hurly, the Australian photographer (who shot both stills and moving film); and Ken Drury as McNish, the carpenter, the one man to argue with Shackleton about his plans and actions. Much of the action was shot in the snow and ice of Greenland and Iceland, but in the event not as much as was originally planned, and on occasion the transition from location to studio shots is apparent.(See the TV documentary - Shackleton: Breaking the Ice - about the making of the film.) Nevertheless, the film as a whole is convincing, exciting and at times moving.
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