Synopsis by Hal Erickson
All but forgotten at the time of his death in 1922, controversial British explorer Ernest Shackleton would enjoy a rediscovery of sorts decades later, with dozens of books and filmed documentaries devoted to his "magnificent blunder" -- the failed Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1914-1916. On the sheer weight of his dynamic personality, Shackleton was able to mount an exploratory journey to the Antarctic, accompanied by a crew of 27 men, among them celebrated Australian photographer Frank Day. Alas, Shackleton's ship was crushed by packing ice early in the expedition, forcing the crew to brave the merciless polar elements for a full ten months. Making matters worse, public concern over Shackleton's plight was shunted aside when Great Britain entered WWI. First telecast in England on January 2 and 3, 2002, the two-part TV biopic Shackleton stars Kenneth Branagh in the title role. The script does not shirk away from the subject's less savory character traits, including his disastrous financial dealings and his blatant unfaithfulness to wife Emily (Phoebe Nicholls). Nonetheless, one emerges from the film with a renewed respect and admiration for the visionary Shackleton and his bedraggled companions. Much of the imagery in Shackleton was based upon the still-surviving films made on the scene by Frank Day, adding extra authenticity to the drama even though the film was made in Greenland and Iceland rather than the Antarctic. The two-part film made its American TV debut courtesy of the A&E cable network on April 7 and 8, 2002; shortly afterward, Shackleton was released on DVD, with four additional hours of documentary footage.