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The three-part series ended last night on PBS, which I believe was its
first wide exposure to an American audience. The richness of its text
and the unique quality of its filming are high points. It seems very
novel to view and hear an action play employing the vernacular of
Georgian England, Jane Austen's filmed drawing rooms being the primary
example of that form of speech. Yet it is the scope of drama
overwhelming the senses that makes quaint language fit perfectly into
each and every scene. Such bold exposure to an old reality is evocative
of literary giants like Tolstoy or Shakespeare while at the same time
entertaining in the manner of a C. S. Forester or Patrick O'Brian sea
saga. The universality of basic human condition lies at its center.
Narrator Talbot as played by an actor with the almost perfectly appropriate name of Benedict Cumberbatch (surely not even Dickens could beat that one!) alternates between stodgy jingoism and extreme vulnerability, an acting tour de force. Indeed, I cannot recall among this very fine cast any misstep of interpretation. That is a tribute not only to the actors themselves, but to the director as well.
The most impressive element, however, is how perfectly life aboard a man-of-war en route to Australia in the early 1800's is presented. That is especially true of how the motion of the ship becomes almost a character itself, something sea stories rarely take into account except as backdrop. Anyone who has ever experienced mal de mer in person will recognize it instantly, and appreciate all the more how difficult it must have been to recreate within the context of filming.
This is no fanciful Pirates of the Caribbean. Some effort must be expended in attaining an understanding of its nuances.
I saw the second part of this beautiful period piece set on a ship sometime in the 19th century. Golding's book must be responsible for some of the superb dialogue but everything else was good too! I especially liked the way they created the period and feeling of being on the ship so well. For me this had a feeling of completeness about it which I know I won't be able to convey in words... Perhaps it was the way they mixed in technical and historical details about sailing in the eighteen hundreds to the story without messing it up. Benedict Cumberbatch was excellent, as was the rest of the cast. It's not often a mini-series sends me to the "zone", but this one did.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Meticulously constructed and perfectly played, To The Ends Of The Earth
is a simply astonishing voyage out of our reality and into another age.
Based on William Golding's trilogy, these three 90-minute films chronicle the journey towards both Australia and experience of youthful aristocrat Edmund Talbot (Benedict Cumberbatch) aboard an aging man o' war in the early 19th century as he heads for a Government position Down Under.
Among the crew and hopeful emigrants sharing his passage are a tempestuous, bullying captain (Jared Harris), a politically radical philosopher (Sam Neill), a canny 1st lieutenant who's worked his way up from the bottom (Jamie Sives) and, fleetingly, the first brush of love in the form of a beautiful young woman (Joanne Page) whose ship literally passes in the night.
Quite aside from the astonishing degree of physical historic accuracy, director David Attwood and screenwriters Tony Basgallop and Leigh Jackson have a canny eye and ear for the manners and stiff etiquette of an earlier time, crafting a totally convincing microcosm of the Napoleonic era.
Shipboard life is one brutal, monotonous round of seasickness, squalor and danger after another and as Edmund becomes entangled in the loves, hopes and miseries of his fellow passengers he experiences a delirious whirl of life's hardships, Man's inhumanities and his noblest sentiments.
Those who enjoyed Master And Commander: The Far Side Of The World or Patrick O'Brian's series of novels on which it was based will love this for everyone else, it's a whole new world to discover.
This miniseries is a delightfully absorbing story that takes you out of
your familiar time and place into a world of strange events and unique
situations. Don't think of it as a sea-going adventure, though, for it
doesn't seem that way, despite the occasionally lurching furniture and
It is, in fact, a lovely "Bildungsroman" (journey of self-discovery), set in the early 19th century, and centered very clearly around the somewhat naively self-centered and very privileged Edward Talbot, who, despite his having reached maturity, is journeying out of his sphere for the very first time. The situations which beset him and force him to reexamine his life are not specific to sea voyages, but rather they are brought about because he is in the confines of a ship with a multitude of people from various walks of life, for a very long voyage across the world.
Fans of Benedict Cumberbatch should note that this is an absolutely unmissable performance by him. It's arguably his best -- and most wide-ranging -- performance in his very illustrious career.
If you like great stories, unusual period adventures, and/or Benedict Cumberbatch, this miniseries is a Must Watch. Don't let its apparently sea-going theme put you off, especially if you don't go in for that sort of stuff. This is a psychological study through and through (as might be expected from William Golding), and the sea is only a mere backdrop.
To The Ends of the Earth is truly incredible. I watched it having been
so impressed by Benedict Cumberbatch in the brilliant Sherlock. And he
doesn't disappoint here, in fact once again in a performance wider in
range perhaps than Sherlock he is amazing, as are the support actors.
And it does help that the characters are well developed and that you
care for them.
To The Ends of the Earth also has some wonderful production values. You can never go wrong with luscious photography, gorgeous scenery and settings and sumptuous costumes, with a period detail so evocative you feel you are there living the moment(the first series I've seen do that since The Crimson Petal and the White). To The Ends of the Earth has all of this, and also a music score that is beautiful, haunting and rousing and never undermines or overshadows the drama/action.
The story is rich, narrative-wise and thematically and always absorbing, and the dialogue intelligent and thoughtful while never feeling stilted. Overall, it is incredible and a must see. 10/10 Bethany Cox
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I was swept into this series just as surely as the sea would sweep me
into its grip. Although it started out slowly, I found that the realism
in depicting the ship, the variety of characters and lively dialogue
keep me watching. The protagonist was destined to be challenged, grow
and change on this voyage and I wanted to be there for it. I was not
disappointed. The series took you from humor to tragedy and everything
in-between, often in the same scene, the same breath. There was a
wealth of emotional overlaying, interaction and expression--relentless
and compelling to observe. The movement of the ship added an almost
fanciful component to the many scenes, making the characters ill one
moment and adding humor the next.
Edmund Talbot is a complex character, the likes of which we don't see often. We may know where the captain stands or Mr. Prettiman, but they are older men, set in their ways. Talbot was young and arrogant, still learning, testing himself and being tested. He struggled getting along with others and made mistakes like a real person would but had a heart that could be touched, that grew with each hard-taught experience. I appreciate the excellent characterization; it's too rare in movies and television.
At last, something different, something different, something different!
After flailing around (day after day) in the never-ending soup of
present day cinematic, repetitive, mundane bilge ... stumbling across
this wonderful series is like finding the proverbial oasis in the
desert. I wish to thank the gods of Netflix for making it available and
allowing me (admittedly late) to find and watch it. As a new-found fan
of Mr. Cumberbatch (via Sherlock), I had just started to search out his
other works when I found this wonderful epic.
I found it to be an excellent period piece that kept me enthralled and interested from beginning to end. And the end ... so refreshingly lifting in spirit and emotion. The language was impeccable and precise. The acting fantastic and the drama left little wanting.
I pray that the BBC Production Company never stops seeking out and filming these types of films.
I found this mini-series unwatchable. All the people are various degrees of appalling, so there is no one to care about. The shipboard scenes are gritty, so if you think dirt equals authenticity, you'll love it, but I was completely unconvinced. The ship is absurdly roomy and often deserted, and the crew completely without discipline and often drunk, which ship's companies simply were not allowed to be. Cumberbatch is his usual icy, callous self, which works for others but not for me. Scenes of ship handling, sail handling, or the logistics of ship governance are almost nonexistent. The focus is entirely on the middle-class boors, hypocrites, and prigs who make up the paying passengers. The precise opposite of the splendid Master and Commander, this series seems to set out to document exactly how repulsive and boring ship voyages in the Napoleon era could be.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
OK, so maybe this project had flaws, which it certainly did but it was entertaining. I never knew it existed until I found it on Netflix and watched all 3 episodes back to back. As an American, I was shocked at the absurd social ranking system that allowed members of the aristocracy, like young Mr. Talbot, to abuse their fellow citizens to the point of cruelty. I understand that living conditions aboard ships of the day were horrid but the repeated scenes of vomiting and people wallowing in filth was too much. A little goes a long way. I found myself liking Talbot and had faith that he would grow as a person as the story progressed, which he did. What made this production truly memorable for me was the inclusion of bare Cumberbutt! Sweet! All in all, a fun little series.
Reliable. This is the word that has probably been most related to BBC.
Movies they make can be great, good, watchable, but never a waste of
time, a disappointment, a complete disaster.
"To the Ends of the Earth" is a typical BBC work. Time, place and circumstances that most of productions would use for a romantic story BBC again turns into a cold reality, slapping us in face by facts that those were tough times, and in some moments we almost expect a narrator to tell us facts about the ship, the organization of the navy, the geographic data related to position of the ship. They show us that this is neither a "Love Boat" nor "Bounty", and that a good story doesn't need such extremes to be told.
And as the story develops we accept the fact that this is the same hard work and bad conditions as Dickens or Zola would describe us in factories or mines in novels taking place in same years. This was their world, their reality. In these circumstances some traditional rules of well behaving change, some traditional interpersonal relations change as well. This isolated world with its past abandoned, present threatening and future obscure looks like Antarctica base in "The Thing", spaceship in "2001", desert island in "The Blue Lagoon" or post-apocalyptic enclave in "Testament". They all know that most likely they won't see civilization ever more, and even seeing next day is questionable.
The captain is strict and seems cruel in some scenes, but can't be compared to Bligh. Early years of 19th century are not remembered as blossoming democracy, and ship almost sentenced to sinking is impossible to save without a firm hand. And seeing wild crowd of drunk, heartless sailors (that is for sure closer to reality than crew in "Treasure Island" or Errol Flynn movies where almost all pirates follow their code of honor) you may get a feeling that the ship needs a real dictatorship to get any chance of reaching so distant destination.
This harsh reality is melting in the second, weakest part of the mini-series. Watching it we are not sure if we see what is happening, or some imagination or hallucination of the main character. Too big deflection from the style of opening and closing parts.
In the last part we are finally witnessing changes in characters, they become more human and not only figures that the ship must contain for realism in semi-documentary movie. Here we start feeling them, understanding their motives and behaving, expecting what will happen to them. The cruel and dangerous nature, the lack of humanity and the ship itself are still there almost palpable as characters, but not dominating any more - now we have alive persons to see and hear.
Unfortunately, the ending is too sugared. We, certainly, did expect that the ship will successfully reach Australia, but last few minutes are a typical 19th century too romantic final chapter, with a list of characters, good and bad, and their destiny, that was more or less obvious and expected before they saw the coast. Just saving their lives would be a very happy ending (almost a miracle), but that wasn't enough... I know that the director had to follow the old story and that brought in my mind the illogical and forced happy-end of "Great Expectations", still... any modern slimy American romantic comedy could beat this ending.
"To the Ends..." might be a bit too long (middle part!), but in spite of its end it is worth watching both for the story and for understanding how people really sailed, conquered and settled the last wild pieces of the Earth. At least it will be less boring than just reading history and technical articles about it.
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