..

THE ENDURANCE

Review by Chastity Campbell

Narrator: Liam Neeson
Director: George Butler
Audio: Dolby Digital Surround
Video: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Studio: Columbia Tri-Star
Features: See Review
Length: 97 Minutes
Release Date: September 2, 2003

Film ***

I have heard it said throughout my life that a picture is worth a thousand words.  After watching and listening to the story about The Endurance, I am left wondering how many words black and white photos and video footage of one of the most hard won battles against every element imaginable would be worth?!

Sir Ernest Shackleton set out on a journey to the South Pole for the third and final time in his life, during the early 1900s.  He would have no way of knowing that this journey being captured by still frame photos and video footage would last a lot longer than he or any his crew could imagine.

Sliding through the ice flows that lead to the Antarctic shelf where he and few of his crew would set off by sled to the South Pole, Shackleton’s ship The Endurance was surrounded by pack ice and became frozen in place. 

After trying unsuccessfully to cut themselves free of their ice prison, the men were forced to endure the bitter cold with the knowledge that they may well be standing on their final resting place. 

Through shear grit and determination Ernest Shackleton managed to keep his crew alive, for 635 days and nights.   They traversed the icy landscape by foot until they were able to set off for Elephant Island in the dingy boats that they had drug behind them across their floating prison. 

Once they had reached the island, the captain, decided to set out in one of the dingy boats for a whaling station that lay more than 400 miles away.    It was their only hope, but he was more than determined that every man who took a chance on his expedition would make it home safe and sound.

I was more than impressed with the depth and hard work that visibly went into the making of this documentary.   The photos and video footage shot by the ship’s photographer were absolutely brilliant.  He was able to capture the spirit of these men while they endured conditions no human being should ever have to be exposed to.

The photos show the unwavering faith that each man had in his captain, and helped to demonstrate how Shackleton’s calm and controlling mannerism kept hope alive for the men. 

There were a few tense moments as Shackleton was challenged by an errant crew member, but he showed he was made of tougher stuff and stood his ground no matter how hard the tide of despair pulled against him and his men. 

Liam Neeson did a magnificent job narrating the story of this ship and her crew.  I don’t know if it’s the burr in his accent or the soothing tone of his voice, but it certainly helped add more color to this black and white roller coaster ride.

Speaking of color, the film images of the locations these men survived in were breathtaking.  The colors were crisp and vivid, and I personally think they helped to bring this documentary more into focus with modern times.  It’s so easy to look at photos and images of old and not be able to make a connection to them because they seem so foreign to modern eyes.  When a filmmaker can take those images and combine them with modern cinematography, it lights a fire under the memories each photo holds and brings it into focus a little better.

I strongly recommend this DVD if you enjoy history or documentaries in general.  It was very nicely put together and packaged with the viewer in mind.  Pick up your copy today and enjoy a piece of history…I know I did.

Video ***

Bear in mind that this documentary was put together with photos and film footage from the early 1900s, and you cannot help but be impressed with how well things blended. 

The images shot in modern times of those far away places are a beautiful contrast to the stark black and white images, and film footage shot by the ship’s photographer.   For filming to be in the early stages of development, this gentleman really knew which moments to capture in order to paint the biggest of mosaic pictures.

While you have to give a bit in the quality arena you don’t have to give too much.  The colors shot now were vivid and crisp with only a hint of digital hazing around the edges.  The black and white photos and film footage was cleaner than I expected something from that time period to be.  I can only assume some clean up and restoration work was done to the images in order to make them stand out so boldly.  

Quite a nice visual experience, if I do say so myself. 

Audio ***

I was impressed by the audio on this DVD.  The Dolby Digital Surround sound was used to very nice effect throughout the entire disc.   The voiceover was balanced nicely against the score, and included for those people who may already know the story is the ability to turn off the dialogue and view this disc as a collage of video and still photos set to very appropriate music.

The audio quality was very good with little to no audible disruptions.   There were no dips or dropouts detectable, and I just have to say again, how impressed I was with this DVD’s sound quality.

Features ***

Ah, shiver me timbers mate…these features brought my oars out of the water!

A featurette titled “Beyond The Endurance,” gives insight into the production of this documentary as well as never before seen information. 

Commentary by Director George Butler is included, as well as the ability to select the isolated score.

A section titled “Beyond The Endurance,” contains four separate parts that take you behind the making of this documentary.  There is an insight section dedicated to the director of the film, George Butler.  A section titled “In The Wake Of Shackleton,” goes behind the scenes and shows you how this disc came together.  “Iconic Images,” is a featurette on the life of Frank Hurley, through stories told by his daughters.  And finally “Past and Present,” brings together the descendants of The Endurance for the opening of an exhibit dedicated to the ship and it’s crew.

Trailers for, “The Endurance,” “Anne Frank Remembered,” and “Vertical Limit,” (I’m still not sure how Vertical Limit fits into a DVD like this one, other than the obvious snow factor!) are included for you to view.  

Interactive menus, and subtitles in English and French all serve to round out this DVD’s features.

Summary:

This legendary journey captured in still photographs and on film is a definite link to history you can’t afford to be without.  Let this disc set the pace in your DVD player and see if you have The Endurance to follow this ship into port.