NARRATED BY LIAM NEESON.IN AUGUST 1914, SIR ERNEST SHACKLETON SET SAIL WITH 27 MEN ON HIS SHIP THE ENDURANCE. HIS PLAN WASTO BE THE FIRST EXPEDITION TO CROSS THE ANTARCTIC CONTINENT.CONSIDERED BY EXPERTS TO BE THE GREATEST... more » ADVENTURE EVER.« less
"In August 1914, the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, comprised of 27 men under the leadership of Sir Ernest Shackleton, set sail from England in the wooden ship ENDURANCE. The plan was to land a team on the Antarctic Continent, and the men to dogsled across the frozen landmass to the other side via the South Pole. However, one day's sail from the Antarctic shore, the vessel became entrapped in the ice pack, and was subsequently crushed and sunk. Shackleton and his group were stranded on the drifting floes out of contact with and beyond the ken of the rest of the world. The expedition's grueling, heroic journey back to civilization, culminating in an 800-mile voyage across a stormy, frigid ocean by Shackleton and five companions in a small, open boat, is the subject of this documentary based on the book by Caroline Alexander. The spell-binding nature of this film is due to the masterful mix of material from several sources: archival 35mm footage, still photos and drawings from the expedition itself, narrated excerpts from diaries, radio interviews with survivors and filmed interviews with their descendents, and contemporary film footage shot along the route of the men's ordeal. One is amazed at the quality of the 35mm moving images shot by Frank Hurley, the team's photographer. What you see is not a re-enactment - it's real, and as crisp as if shot only last week instead of almost ninety years ago. Besides being the visual narrative of an extraordinary survival story, ENDURANCE is also a show-and-tell presentation on the essence of leadership. Two years after departing England, Shackleton successfully brought all his 27 men back from the brink of extinction. Not a single member of the venture was lost. (Ironically, they arrived back in a Europe entangled in the throes of World War One, in which some of the Expedition's survivors were subsequently killed.) For a fuller presentation of the subject in text, I would strongly recommend ENDURANCE: SHACKLETON'S INCREDIBLE VOYAGE by Alfred Lansing."
Triumph of the Human Spirit
Hansol Lee | 12/10/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is easily the best documentary I've seen since "Crumb" and "Hoop Dreams". The phrase "triumph of the human spirit" gets thrown around so often these days that it has lost its meaning, but I can't think of any other words to describe this incredible documentary. Even though the story is rather simple and we already know how it ends, I was at the edge of my seat the entire time. It's unfathomable what these men had to endure during the 2 years, and it's absolutely amazing that even one of them, let alone all, managed to survive. The breathtaking original footages and still photographs are extremely crisp and it's hard to believe that this was shot nearly 9 decades ago. And while the lack of original materials during the later stages of their ordeals is a little disappointing, we can hardly blame them for that. The narration by Liam Neeson is excellent as well."
Amazing and Harrowing
Robert I. Hedges | 03/13/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"'The Endurance' is a documentary originally aired as a 'Nova' special, and is one of the most amazing documentaries on any subject that I have ever seen. In the summer of 1914 Ernest Shackleton and his crew set sail on the 'Endurance' for Antarctica, with the goal of being the first expedition to cross the Antarctic continent. After becoming ensnared in ice their ship slowly disintegrated, and forced the survivors onto land, and eventually into their small wooden lifeboats in an attempt to make a perilous voyage back to civilization. The crew endured for 635 days and nights without real shelter or sufficient rations, frequently eating seal blubber and even their beloved dogs. As an animal lover, I came to realize the true depths of their situation when they had to shoot their cat and dogs, and ultimately eat some of their true canine friends.The story is one of tremendous hubris and heroism all wrapped up into one larger than life explorer. Shackleton's true gift was not in being a great explorer, but in being able to largely control the morale of the crew and provide leadership when it was most critical. Only thanks to that leadership did every man on the expedition survive. The documentary itself is a brilliant mix of the film shot by expedition photographer Frank Hurley (including a lot of motion picture film) and modern film of the sites in question, along with a bit of reenactment footage of recreated lifeboats identical to the originals. The work is seamless, deeply moving, and will give anyone a new appreciation for the powers of ice and the human spirit. In addition to the actual documentary the disc has several choice extras including a director's commentary track, interviews with children of survivors, and, best of all, a documentary on the making of the documentary, which I found absolutely fascinating. The most amazing thing that was revealed in the 'making of' documentary was the fate of the duplicate lifeboats, which under the control of the modern seamen ultimately sank in heavy seas, but seas far less than Shackleton encountered. This is in every way a spectacular production, and I would recommend it highly to anyone. You will never forget this film."
Good not great. But a great one does exist.
J. R. Tureman, Jr. | Alexandria,VA USA | 09/10/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This version is good, no question. It accurately portrays the story of the Endurance. But if you are a true fan of this wonderful adventure, you must see the original Nova version. David Ogden Stiers narration is magnificent. His intonation and phrasing perfectly reflect the mood of the adventure and places you amid the expedition. Interviews with descendants are plentiful and seem almost as effective as if they were the participants themselves. Expert interviewees add insight into the natural forces that were in constant combat with the expedition. Last and not least, the soundtrack is a subject lesson in matching mood and music. I'm lucky enough to have a poor VHS recording of the original Nova production. I would buy a DVD of it in a heartbeat if Amazon could find it."
That of which men are capable...
Miles D. Moore | Alexandria, VA USA | 12/22/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
""The Endurance"--the saga of the struggle of Sir Ernest Shackleton and his crew to survive the Antarctic wastes--is more amazing than any plot Hollywood has ever devised, and every word of it is true. The closest real-life equivalent I can think of is the story of Apollo 13--and whereas that crisis lasted three days and involved three men, the story of the Endurance lasted two years and involved 28. The film footage and still photos by Frank Hurley, Shackleton's official photographer, add an eerie, you-are-there quality to the bleakly gorgeous, modern-day footage of Antarctica taken by director George Butler. (That so much of Hurley's film survived is in itself incredible.) While the courage and stamina of the crew were amazing, I also can't forget the tales of all-too-human pettiness among them. I'll always remember the snooty, aristocratic Col. Thomas Orde-Lee, who disdained rowing but eagerly bailed out his boat (rowing was for commoners, but bailing was heroic). I also can't forget Shackleton's total lack of forgiveness for mutinous ship's carpenter Chippy McNish, even after McNish repented of his rebellion and took actions which essentially saved the lives of all the crew. In showing both the grandeur and the pettiness of the human spirit--as well as the mercilessness of the perpetual Antarctic winter--"The Endurance" is one of the greatest stories of exploration, as well as one of the best movies of 2001."