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Movie: The Endurance

You know that scene in Fellowship of the Rings where Gandalf 'n' Co. are traveling over the Misty Mountains while Saruman drops lightning bolts and avalanches upon their heads in an attempt to kill them? And even though you've just spent an hour watching hobbits converse with wizards and dead guys ride around on horses, you're still sitting there in theater watching the gang trudge through the snow and thinking "Yeah right - no one could do that!" Well, The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition is a lot like that scene. Except it's a documentary of an actual even, which means you don't have the luxury of dismissing the whole thing with a "No way, dude!?

The story begins in 1914, back when a guy hankering for adventure would plan an expedition to Antarctica rather than just climb the rock wall at REI. The South Pole had already discovered, so Sir Ernest Shackleton assembled and crew of men and dogs and headed south, intending to traverse the ... well, see, it really doesn.t matter what Shackleton had intended to do, since he never came anywhere close to achieving his goal. Instead, his ship became trapped in pack ice, thereby stranding he and his mates on the continent of Antarctica with no hope of rescue. He did, however, have a movie camera and a cameraman, which is what makes this film so fascinating: actual footage of the ordeal.

I won?t say more, because the litany of calamities that befalls the men as they attempt to get back to civilization is staggering and makes the film as exciting and tense as any artificial 'thriller'. If it?s not still playing in a theater near you, at least make the effort to see this extraordinary tale on tape or DVD - it's a fairly low-budget film, and will lose little in the transition to the tv screen. That said, I?m glad I saw it in a theater filled with other people, where, by the end, people were audibly groaning and gasping in disbelief each time the narrator (Liam Neeson, by the way) introduced a new obstacle to Shackleton's survival.

Posted on February 23, 2002 to Movies