Shackleton (2002)

Genres - Adventure, Historical Film  |   Sub-Genres - Adventure Drama  |   Run Time - 206 min.  |   Countries - United Kingdom   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Mike Cummings

This TV miniseries chronicles the true story of 28 men who confront the loneliness of endless ice after their foundering ship strands them in the frozen nothingness of Antarctica. Director and scriptwriter Charles Sturridge pays meticulous attention to history as he presents the tale, and Kenneth Branagh infuses gritty resolve into his role as daring explorer Ernest Henry Shackleton in his attempt to defeat nature and dissension after ice crushes his ship and maroons him and his crew. While the camera pans the terrifying beauty of vast Antarctica, mutinous grumblings reflect the slowly deteriorating morale of the men huddling in tents, dragging lifeboats across ice floes, eating their sled dogs, and rowing through pounding waves and frostbiting winds. It is a tribute to Sturridge's direction -- and to the diaries of Shackleton and his crew -- that the film holds the interest of the viewer despite the monotony of the landscape and the absence of civilization. One scene shows the ship's photographer groping through lethal water to retrieve lost film. Another graphic scene depicts the amputation of a gangrenous toe. From time to time, the camera returns to England to report on the diminishing hopes of Shackleton's supporters, including his wife and mistress. Overall, the acting is excellent, the cinematography is strong, and the portrayal of Shackleton as one of the 20th century's greatest adventurers is vivid and true to life.