A Failed Review – Shackleton

Thursday 17 January, 2013

It was a dark and stormy night. The winds were howling, the rain was peltering and reverberating against the windows, and the temperature was bitterly cold.

Luckily we have central heating, so it wasn’t too long until that last point no longer bothered us.

Anyway, so, I came to add Shackleton on to my LoveFilm list through my Paul McGann catalogue. It’s obviously not part of my Classic Movie Quest, so this excuse for a review won’t be all that comprehensive.

Here’s what I was expecting:

An early 20th century voyage told with accuracy and finesse fit for such a true story. A tightly executed narrative and quality acting the directors of Master and Commander would be envious of. And Paul McGann.

Here’s what I found:

An early 20th century voyage told with some accuracy and embellishments fit for a dramatic reading. A decently executed narrative that was somewhat spoiled by subplots, quality acting from very good but not very high billed actors. And no Paul McGann.

There’d been a mix up on the LoveFilm site. Paul McGann was listed in the credits instead of his brother Mark, who played Second Officer Tom Crean.

My biggest problem with this “film”, is that it’s actually split into two parts, in the same way the Hallmark miniseries version of The Titanic is. The acting is very good, a very high standard from all of them. The budget must have been a brilliant one because the camera work was excellent, the quality of the film was excellent, the scenic shots were amazing and I’m not actually sure the actors didn’t end up stranded in the south pole for real. I’ve seen a lot worse when it comes to mini series.

But the subplots and slow beginning almost made me give up before it really got started. I understand there must have been a back story to show how Shackleton got established again, what exactly drove him to go on a second expedition… but at the same time, I was hoping for something a bit more like Master and Commander (I don’t know why and I blame myself for the notion) where we’d get the backstory as the movie went on, rather than see half of the backstory on screen and build up from there. Because that took up about a good 50 minutes at the beginning, and the film overall is 3 hours and 15 minutes long, approximately.

And then there’s the affair. I didn’t know much beyond the basics of Shackleton before watching this film, but I didn’t know anything about an affair with an “up and coming” actress. A bit of a google later, and I can’t find anything about an affair outside of this production. If that was a way to show that his home life was in shambles, I feel like it’s a bit of a cheap shot. We saw glimpses of his home life, was that really needed to drive the point home?¬†Or was it put in for a bit of a dramatic flair? To give it a bit more of a hollywood feel, maybe?

The last twenty minutes, though, that’s where I was sat on the metaphorical edge of my proverbial seat. The men were split up into three groups, their desperation was believable. All that they went through in the latter half of the film, especially those last 20 minutes, was what I imagine a failed expedition to be like. But they didn’t give up, as is historically accurate.

Shackleton didn’t give up, and the rest of the men had no choice but to survive one day at a time whilst they waited. And the film showed that brilliantly. The actors really did the real men justice.

Which is why I’d recommend this film/mini series. Because it is good, when it comes to the important parts.

It’s just got a few parts that are superfluous in the long run that people might want to fast forward through.