11 June 2006 | TOMASBBloodhound
Nature is indifferent to the dreams of mankind.
The Endurance is a truly fascinating account of Sir Ernest Shackleton's failed Antarctic expedition of 1914-1916. Shackelton was an adventurer looking for greatness in perhaps the last great uncharted portion of the earth at that time. He set out with 27 other adventurous young men (mostly from the UK) in a modest ship bound for the icy world of Antarctica. Their goal, once they got there, would be to walk across the continent and claim it for England. The South Pole had already been discovered, but apparently that was not enough to stake a claim to the entire continent at that time.
Shackleton is described as a man who admittedly "was not really good at anything". He was simply looking for prominence in one of the last places one could find it at that time. The crew, an assortment of various sailors and craftsmen, were warned of the dangers and low pay of such a venture. However the chance of gaining acclaim for accomplishing such a feat was enough to get hundreds of men to sign up. The crew were chosen and the boat was set to sail at the outset of WWI. Shackleton actually offered to postpone his mission and donate his ship The Endurance to the war effort, but the government let him go, anyway. Ironically, the ship never even made it to Antacrtica before things went to hell. Nobody from this party ever set foot on the continent.
About 100 miles from the coast, the boat became hopelessly stuck in pack ice. Shackleton made the decision to wait until the following spring when the ice would break up to resume the trip. Before spring could come, however, The Endurance would be crushed by the ice. The crew were forced to shoot their sled dogs to save food rations. The last of the dogs were actually eaten by the crew. The crew were forced to then drag the remaining life boats several miles to open water where they would then have to island-hop their way to civilization in some of the coldest and most choppy seas on earth. Along the way, the group is splintered in three parts, as it just becomes impossible to transport so many men in the tiny lifeboats. Somehow, over the span of nearly two years, Shackleton and his men are eventually all rescued. There are some incredible individual acts of heroism, and even an odd case of mutiny along the way. But Shackleton's leadership and confidence always seems to keep the group alive.
Once the men return home, they find that their own heroism has been dwarfed by so many men who had given their lives on the battlefields of WWI. Many of Shackleton's crew enlist in the army to almost certain death, and one is left to wonder about the logic behind it all. To stay alive through impossible circumstances for nearly two years, then go out and give your life for one of the most pointless conflicts in human history? People's attitudes must have been somewhat different back then.
The film is a visual treat. Still and moving footage from the actual expedition is inter-cut with current shots of the areas these men traveled through. The scenery is breathtaking, and you get a real feel for how desperate these mens' circumstances really were. Liam Neeson narrates, and he gives the material even further dignity. After watching the film, you can't help but realize how insignificant we humans are in the scope of the natural world. How any of these men made it back alive is a miracle. Nature lives by its own rules, and any time we humans attempt to conquer it, we run the risk of falling victim to its indifference to our plight.
9 of 10 stars.