SHACKLETON (DVD 3-PACK)
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Shackleton is not a biopic of the great Anglo-Irish explorer but a dramatization of the failed trans-Antarctic expedition of 1914-1916. As written and directed by Charles Sturridge (Longitude), the production, filmed on real ice floes in Greenland, stays remarkably close to the facts, capturing the look of the surviving expedition photos by Frank Hurley (collected in the book South with Endurance) with great fidelity. Kenneth Branagh makes no attempt at an authentic accent but otherwise gives a powerful impression of a most commanding personality. When the expedition ship Endurance became locked in the Antarctic ice, Shackleton vowed to bring every man home alive, and against virtually impossible odds, including a 700-mile journey in an open boat through some of the worst seas in the world, he did just that. This superlative miniseries realizes the story with production values and cinematography that would not disgrace a big-budget feature (South, Hurley's 1919 silent movie featuring some motion-picture footage from the expedition, is also available on video). Intense physical drama, strong performances, and Adrian Johnston's fine score combine here to deeply moving effect, marred only a little by a rushed conclusion. With Roland Huntford, author of the definitive Shackleton biography, as production advisor, this easily stands as the benchmark for all future comparable films. --Gary S. Dalkin
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