The Search for the Northwest Passage (2005)

TV Movie   |    |  Documentary

A look at the search for the fabled Northwest passage, the legendary path through the ice across the Canadian Arctic, and the attempts made by wealthy British explorer Sir John Franklin and penniless Norwegian Roald Amundsen.


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User Reviews

30 March 2005 | paul2001sw-1
A great story well told
'The Seach for the North West Passage' is an unusually good documentary. Of course, it has the advantages of having a gripping story of life and death to tell, and the opportunity to show lots of breathtaking arctic scenery. What's also good is that there's a lot of content here, with a series of linked themes: John Franklin's failed expedition; how the fate of Franklin was afterwards discovered; Amudsen's successful expedition, fifty years later; why Amudsen succeeded where Franklin had failed; and what has happened to the Arctic, both culturally and climatically, in the century since Amudsen's voyage. But the approach it takes to dramatic reconstruction is also worthy of praise. Instead of a tedious "drama documentary", full of imagined dialogue, instead we see mainly silent pictures of the two expeditions, while a real, informative commentary explains to the audience what it going on. The extent to which this is preferable to uninteresting semi-fiction and dramatic excesses with computer graphics (two common trends in the genre) deserves to be stressed. The similarly effective 'Touching the Void' took the same lightweight approach, conveying visually the nature of an extreme environment in the way that a radio program or book could not, but also understanding that the story such as this is best realised as simple fact. It's strange that two of the best documentaries of the past two years have both been tales of survival amid snow and ice; and to Channel 4's credit that it funded them both.


Release Date:

24 March 2005



Country of Origin


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