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Eight Below

November 22, 2010

Eight Below (2006)
Director: Frank Marshall
Actors: Paul Walker, Bruce Greenwood, Moon Bloodgood

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Synopsis: A group of Antarctic explorers have to suddenly flee the continent, leaving their trusted huskies to fend for themselves. One of the explorers, Jerry Shepard (Paul Walker), resolves to put a mission together to rescue the huskies.

Review: Taken that this is a Disney movie centred on a loveable pack of huskies in the Antarctic wasteland, director Frank Marshall actually does a fairly good job of fashioning a narrative that while conforming to the Disney brand of wholesome family entertainment, also throws in enough sage nuggets about human nature to make it a better-than-average kiddies picture. An aspect of the film that Marshall gets entirely right is playing absolutely seriously his narrative about the huskies (the titular “eight below”) getting stranded in Antarctica as the scientists looking after them have to bail out suddenly after a terrible weather system hits. Casting Paul Walker as the terse, almost classically Western lead helps, and his deep empathy for the dogs is eminently believable, and the support characters, even if a little stereotypical – Bruce Greenwood as the initially egotistical scientist, and Jason Biggs as the comedic topographer – help embellish the drama. Even if a few flourishes of cuteness are thrown in for the kids (mainly in anthropomorphising the dogs, and giving their journey a conventionally human curve of sustenance), it’s hard not to be won over by the emotional tow of the film. Perhaps it isn’t Cormac McCarthy in terms of the epic heroicism accorded animals in his literature, but Eight Below in its own soft and sincere way, throws a charming spotlight on ‘man’s best friend’ in the most testing of environments. (November 2010)

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