An incredible story of the triumph of man, wrapped in a pretty nice display
package. I enjoyed this very much.
While the film did have its shortcomings, they were unusual ones, and
probably more subject to the complaints of an IMAX film rather than to any
other type of film. The main problem I had was with the old
footage. While it was terrific to see the actual ship, the footage was
grainy -especially on such a giant screen. I don't know if there is any
other way to show that footage, either, because it would not have been the
same if it was shown as a small square, as has been done on other films.
In short, Ernest Shackleton hired on a crew for "long hours, terrible
living conditions, low pay, and low chance of survival." He was
going to Antarctica, in 1919 (or then-abouts). Two teams had beat him to
the south pole, so he wanted to be the first person to traverse it. I
don't know what he was planning to do when he got to the other side, maybe
come back to his ship. Or maybe he would have the ship go around the
continent and pick him up. But they could have waited a long time if the
ship was encased in ice.
As it turned out, the ship Endurance was trapped in the ice much
sooner. The ice closed in around it far from the destination continent, and
starting point. So they made camp on the giant ice flow, exercised their
dogs and themselves, waiting for spring to arrive. But instead of
freeing the ship, the warmer weather sent more ice flows up against the ship,
destroying it. The images of the ship falling apart were haunting.
The giant ice-cradled masts breaking as if they were twigs was horrifying, not
just as they watched their way home sink, but it had also served as their home
for many months. I can't even imagine accepting the situation as it
was, living on the ship for so long, waiting for warmer weather.
Taking aboard the three lifeboats all that they could afford to take, they
spent days rowing, sometimes ending up going backwards because of the tide,
instead of forwards, hopefully towards home. The story doesn't tell what happened to the dogs,
but I suppose they were forced to kill them rather than let the dogs to fend
for themselves, where they would have certainly died from starvation, cracking
ice flows or freezing. I wonder if such a valuable source of meat was
left behind (better not to dwell on that, I suppose).
The weather conditions were terrible, as to be expected in the open
ocean. The waves were as tall as skyscrapers (or seemed that way).
I don't know how they survived. For five or six nights, they slept in
the lifeboats, under the sleet and above the waves. Incredible!
Finally, they made landfall on Elephant Island, a large island north of Antarctica,
populated only by penguins and seals, but with no other life. Just rock
and ocean. Yuck.
Shackleton took five other men with him on an 800 mile open ocean voyage on
a single modified lifeboat, catching the wind on homemade sails. After a
long time at sea, somehow, miraculously, they made it back to their starting
point. Unfortunately, they were on the wrong side of the island, and
their lifeboat was unable to made another trip in the water. They spend
their last night at sea in a hurricane! Nature's cruel joke, in sight of
land, but with waters too rough to risk trying to get to it.
Once they landed, Shackleton and two other men made a thirty-six hour trek
across uncharted and extremely rugged terrain back to the harbor where they
began the journey, almost 18 months before. There, he hired out a ship,
rescued his other three trans-ocean mates and went to pick up his remaining
crew on Elephant Island. I was dreading what they would find there, but
every single member of the 27 person crew
survived, healthy! Absolutely incredible.
Most of the story is recreated by actors, and I don't know how much of it
they filmed at the same locations. Probably not the southern-most
spots. But still, it was probably a very accurate representation.
I would not have wanted to participate in the recreation, much less the actual
events. I guess I'm not a true explorer. Out in the Northwest
Territories, above the tree line on the archipelago, I became very sick and
just wanted to lie down and get it over with. Thankfully, I had good
friends with me, and a ski-doo with a covered sled on the back. It was
nothing, absolutely nothing, like what Shackleton and his crew faced.
It takes a special leader to do what they did. I wonder if there was
dissent in the group, because like the dogs, it was never mentioned. I
have to believe there was friction; as the narrator says, the men began to
lose it. But because this is a story about victory, it does not do an
even job with the negatives also. That's alright, it's probably better
that way. Shackleton must have been a charismatic person, taking the
lead like he did, making those life and death decisions. He must have
been a truly amazing person.
My first reaction to the music of this film was that it was terrific, with
a really epic sort of feel to it. But that worked against it, too.
Whenever Shackleton was approaching a victory over nature, overcoming another
obstacle, the music foreshadowed it, letting us on to the secret just a little
early. But it was still very nice to listen to.
The scenery was also terrific. There were breathtaking views of the
ice, gigantic icebergs, crashing ice flows, dark blue skies, and don't forget
Elephant Island, a chunk of rock that was amazing to look at because it looked
like there were ants crawling all over it -but those ants were penguins,
little dots from a long shot. Even the old footage showed us some
incredible sights. But I wonder how they managed to record the
ice-breaking tactics the ship was put through -the camera must have hung well
out over the prow of the ship, perhaps with the cameraman there behind it!
The story was really amazing. The way it was told was also very well
done. The movie was well made, with visuals and music that brought life
to the icy settings. That this is a true story only makes it more
amazing. This was quite a journey.