The finest documentary films always entertain while they educate, and George Butler's phenomenal Endurance goes even farther than that; it virtually hypnotizes.The subject here is legendary explorer Ernest Shackleford and his ill-fated attempt to reach Antarctica. Setting to sea in 1914 with a crew of 28 men, The Endurance quickly found itself surrounded by thousands of deadly ice floes. In a move that would ultimately prove disastrous, Shackleford one night decides to let his ship float along with the current. The next morning the sailors awoke to discover that their their ship had been completely encased in ice; The Endurance can't go forward or back.
Stuck firmly in the center of a massive glacier, Shackleford's first plan was to dig the boat out. When that failed, he and his crew set out across the giant ice floe in search of land. Carrying meager supplies, three rowboats and a pack of loyal dogs, the crew braved the ridiculously extreme conditions in an effort to get back home.
If this adventure were pure fiction, it would still make for a damn fine story. The fact that it really happened is simply astonishing. Throughout the documentary, we are given information and insight from some of the crewmembers' families, and several letters and diary passages recorded on the expedition are included as well.
Most impressive is the collection of actual footage and still photographs from the doomed journey. Once Shackleford realized how dire the situation was, his only goal was to bring all his men home alive. Several of the anecdotes offered are almost too extreme to be believed, such as when one crew member falls through a crevice into the freezing sea before being fished out by the ever-present Shackleford.
Several awe-inspiring scenes of Antarctica's brutal beauty are included amidst the harrowing tale, and George Butler manages to capture some truly stunning shots. The low-key narration by Liam Neeson dramatically complements this compelling film.Few 'fictional' movies will keep you glued to the screen like this fantastic documentary will. Although the story's outcome has been documented time and again, those unfamiliar with the resolution will be simply hypnotized by the tale, and those who already know about Shackleford's heroics will still find themselves fascinated.