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Storyline (warning: spoilers)
It’s easy to see why the story of Anglo-Irish explorer, Sir Ernest Shackleton, has had several screen outings – including a Kenneth Branagh-powered TV miniseries. It’s an incredible true story of survival – a team of 28 men (with their pack of sled dogs) on a mission to cross Antarctica become trapped in sea ice in 1914, battling frozen conditions and dwindling supplies in perhaps the most unforgiving region on Earth.
This Australian made-for-IMAX documentary has its strong points, especially the impressive archival footage and photos from the expedition and crisp cinematography of present-day Antarctica. However, it’s somewhat repetitive and with its bloated melodramatic soundtrack, there’s a made-for-TV feel that the documentary never manages to shake off.
Words from Shackleton’s own journal form part of the script – and thankfully, his words are vivid. “I ask myself, ‘Why on Earth one comes to these parts of the Earth?’” Shackleton writes. It is a question that’s not answered. We learn little of his background or motivations. We do learn of his incredible leadership skills, keeping his crew motivated and positive under life-threatening conditions, as they set up camp on a “floating cake of ice” – abandoning their original mission and transforming a tale of exploration to one of survival.
Much of the documentary covers British-Australian Tim Jarvis’ recreation of Shackleton’s journey – minus the luxury of modern equipment. Jarvis is an impressive narrator and works climate change into the narrative. It’s jaw-dropping when images of the region in Shackleton’s time are compared with those of today, showing a frightening loss of ice.