A history of the nation's first transcontinental railway accompanies a steam-train ride through the Canadian Rockies.

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A history of the nation's first transcontinental railway accompanies a steam-train ride through the Canadian Rockies.

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30 September 2011 (Canada)  »

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Rocky Mountain High
19 February 2016 | by (Australia) – See all my reviews

Five years is a long time to release a film. That just happens to be the case with this IMAX documentary. After being released in North American cinemas in 2011, Rocky Mountain Express is finally going to be screened in Australian cinemas. It wouldn't have mattered if it was released in 55 years as it's a timeless story filled with inspiration and a triumph of the human spirit. It's an historical recount of the epic and arduous struggles to build the railway track across Canada which will appeal to trainspotting enthusiasts and anyone who likes a tale that promotes the mantra of mind over matter.

Stephen Low deserves credit for bringing this documentary to the screen for he has directed and photographed with precision. From the old black and white photographs of the people who built the railway to the interesting information presented about the ordeals they faced, there is a sense that he has spent a significant amount of time to research the archives. The steam train featured throughout allows Low to showcase the magnificent scenery that abounds. The overhead tracking plus the point-of-view shots he employs ensure that this is not only a documentary worth listening to, but also one that is aesthetically pleasing. There might be a few too many shots of the train itself but all can be forgiven when the rest of the documentary is so appealing.

There are no talking head shots for nobody is interviewed. The plight of many of the workers is sensitively handled in the narration while the script provides great insight into the many challenges that faced the construction of the tracks. The score is a beautiful combination of piano, violin and cello which effectively contributes to the varying moods of the documentary ranging from the exciting journey of the steam train to the sad reflections of the workers killed during the track construction.

If you have never seen an IMAX documentary before, Rocky Mountain Express would be a suitable introduction to this mode of entertainment. Trainspotters and IMAX enthusiasts rejoice to a documentary that informs, fascinates and entertains.


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