Thursday, October 15, 2015

TV Review: Shackleton by Charles Sturridge

Shackleton written and directed by Charles Sturridge

A review inspired by real historical events!*

Sir Earnest Shackleton was a British Antarctic explorer who mounted an expedition to cross the frozen continent. Someone had already made it to the South Pole so he had to do something different, something more. He gets a crew and ship going just as World War I is breaking out. They sail south and make it into the Weddell Sea where their boat, The Endurance, becomes trapped in the ice. Over time it becomes apparent that they won't be able to cross the continent and have to get to safety. Their boat sinks in the ice so they take their supplies on dog sleds and begin the seemingly impossible journey home.

This telling of the story has Kenneth Branagh as Shackleton. He gives a fine performance as the hard yet optimistic British gentleman explorer. The story starts with him giving lectures about the Antarctic and going through all the preparations to make his new voyage. This part was interesting but not as compelling as the sea voyages, especially when they hit the cold waters of the South Pole. When his mission changes, he shows the resilience needed to bring everybody back, even those who are caving in to despair. The story is intercut with bits of his wife and his mistress back home dealing with the war and his absence, including an effort to mount a rescue voyage. Again, these parts are interesting but not compelling like the arctic survival story.

The show is a two-part miniseries, with each part about 100 minutes long. If I had final cut on the show, I'd probably drop the "back home" scenes so viewers can share in the crew's anxiety over what's happening back home. The story doesn't need any extra drama, the survival story is dramatic enough.

*Okay, the real, historical event that inspired me to watch this was A Good Story is Hard to Find's discussion of a book version of Shackleton's adventure called Endurance. I'm a bit behind!

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