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PLEASE NOTE: Michael D's is currently in READ ONLY MODE. Anything submitted will simply not be written to the database.
Lots of stuff is still broken, but at least reviews can now be looked up and read.
Endurance, The: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition (2000)

Endurance, The: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition (2000)

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Released 7-Oct-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Main Menu Audio & Animation
Audio Commentary-George Butler (Director)
Isolated Musical Score
Featurette-The Tale Of The Endurance: Insights from the author
Featurette-Making Of-In The Wake Of Shackleton
Featurette-Iconic Images: Frank Hurley Remembered
Featurette-Past and Present
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-The Age of Innocence, Sense and Sensibility
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 2000
Running Time 93:51
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (47:52) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By George Butler
White Mountain Films
Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Liam Neeson
Case ?
RPI $39.95 Music Michael Small

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Isolated Music Score Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio Unknown Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes, Some of the historical footage
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Back at the start of the last century, times were a-changing. The industrial revolution had set the world on a course that would inevitably make this globe we live on seem much smaller - fast cars, fast trains, fast ships, and of course, planes. But just before the First World War, there was one last great journey of discovery to be made. The South Pole had been located a few years previously, but none had yet journeyed by foot from one side of Antarctica to the other. Having twice failed to reach the pole himself, famed adventurer Sir Ernest Shackleton set the trans-Antarctic trek in his sights. Recruiting men from an infamously blunt newspaper advertisement, Shackleton set out on board the Endurance on the eve of WWI. Unfortunately the fates were not kind, and rather than trekking across the Antarctic, Shackleton and his men found themselves icebound over three hundred miles out from land and with a long Antarctic winter to look forward to. The story of their survival - Shackleton succeeded in bringing every last man back alive - and how it was achieved, is the subject of this documentary.

    The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Journey has one major advantage over many other historical documentaries - actual historical footage. In order to help finance his expedition, Shackleton sold the film rights of the journey, and so took along Australian film maker Frank Hurley to document the ship's progress. Taking a camera along, which would not be considered out of the ordinary these days, lends us a fascinating view of what happened almost 90 years ago on the frozen Antarctic waters. It is even more astounding to see how clear this old footage is. For film that old, shot in Antarctic conditions, to have survived at all is amazing - for it to be easy to watch is simply beyond belief.

    With a running time of just over 90 minutes, the one real downside to this documentary is its pacing. There is certainly plenty of information to impart, and the film never falls into the trap of presenting irrelevant information just for something else to tell the audience, but its languid pacing ensures those who are not overly enamoured with the story will likely find themselves on the express train to dreamland. With some tightening (for a start - less dialogue-free shots of angry waters or Antarctic scenery to set "think" music), this could provide a far more engaging and demanding experience. As it is however, The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Journey seems destined for a classroom audience.

    Despite the pacing issues, this is an extremely interesting documentary, and well worth checking out for those with an interest in modern history, and as a testament to what Man can survive if necessary.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


    The transfer presented for The Endurance is not all that good. It's certainly watchable, but very heavy grain significantly reduces the beauty of the Antarctic images.

    Presented at an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, this transfer is 16x9 enhanced. There is no information available as to whether this is the correct ratio, but from the framing, it would appear to be.

    As mentioned above, this film consists mainly of four image sources - photographs and drawings from the expedition, film footage from the original expedition, location footage filmed especially for this documentary, and interview footage with descendants of the expedition members and experts on the subject. With so many ranges of source footage it is not particularly surprising that the image quality fluctuates wildly. Sharpness is very good for (most) of the interview footage, and when looking at the photographs and drawings. Somewhat surprisingly, it is also quite good for the original expedition footage. Given these images were shot almost 90 years ago on very primitive equipment in some of the most extreme conditions on the face of the planet, the fact that they are as watchable as they are is simply incredible. The problem footage, however, is the modern location footage. For the most part it is quite soft, and does not present anywhere near enough detail of the landscape. An even bigger problem for the modern location footage, however, is grain. Many of these images are almost obscured by the extreme levels of grain present. The entire screen comes to life and seems to dance - it is a hideous effect, and one which really detracts from the film. Maybe it was caused by the extreme conditions - pervasive cold and damp - but if the footage from 90 years ago actually manages to look a little clearer, then there is a problem.

    Colours are a strange aspect of this film. Frank Hurley, responsible for shooting all the original expedition footage, was very much in the habit of tinting his film, and no colour was too far-fetched. There are blues, greens, bronzes, and even golden yellows used to tint the black and white footage. Keeping with this habit, the modern footage is often tinted to match. When more natural colours are allowed, they are usually somewhat washed out, although this does appear to be due in the most part to poor lighting, as when the sun comes out (for location shooting at least), the colours become more vibrant.

    The only compression artefacts visible are a number of instances of pixelization, often severe, that appear during the heaviest grain periods. The worst of these is from 2:22 to 3:30 where the image almost breaks up as the camera pans over the white mountain, at the time of some extreme grain. Film artefacts are non existent apart from in the historical footage shot during the original expedition. This is really to be expected for the conditions and age of the footage, and in fact it is quite impressive how clear most of that footage is, with only some horizontal banding that occurs from time to time, such as from 15:40 to 15:45, being truly distracting.

    The subtitles are almost word-for-word accurate, are well paced and easy to read.

    This is an RSDL formatted disc with the layer change taking place at 47:52 between Chapters 15 and 16. It is placed at a silent fade-to-black, and is impossible to spot without technical assistance.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The audio transfer is serviceable, and more than good enough for a documentary.

    There are three audio tracks present on this disc. The soundtracks are the original English dialogue, an audio commentary track, and an isolated score track, all presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 surround (at 192 Kbps).

    Dialogue is clear and easy to understand at all time. Audio sync does go slightly out on occasion, but as the only time it can be realised as being out is during the on-camera interviews (which make up only a small portion of the film), it never really causes any issues.

    The original score was composed by Michael Small, the man responsible for the scores to a number of well-known movies from the late '70s and early '80s (although he only worked on six film and television projects in the '90s). It is quite haunting and well suited to the subject of this documentary, but can become somewhat oppressive at times (although again, this does at least suit the subject).

    Surround presence is only minimal - some of the score and some of the wind effects will circle around to the rear speaker, but for the most part it is bound to the front speakers.

    The subwoofer hasn't much to do here - which is not really all that surprising given the nature of this film. It adds resonance to the score from time to time, but other than that stays mostly dormant.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    The extras package presented here is surprisingly good, with almost an hour of featurettes as well as a commentary track.


    The menu is animated, 16x9 enhanced, themed around the film and features Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio.

Audio Commentary - George Butler (Director)

    This is at once both a good and a bad commentary - director Butler talks almost non-stop about his film, and has plenty of interesting information to impart. Unfortunately, the tone of voice in which he delivers his commentary is so monotonous and slow that it is a challenge to listen to more than a few minutes straight without falling asleep. Those that do sit through will be well rewarded, but for most it is not going to be an enjoyable experience.

Isolated Score

    An isolated score track is one extra that does not surface all that frequently on DVD. An excellent extra for those who like their scores, and while I was not a fan of this particular one, it is always an appreciated extra.

Featurette - The Tale Of The Endurance (16:31)

    This featurette is a little puzzling - it is simply footage taken from the film (both historical and new) narrated with virtually the same information imparted in the full film itself by Caroline Alexander, author of the book on which the film was based. Other than being an abridged version of the film (or more like the study guide to the film), and in that being quite interesting, it does seem to be a little superfluous. Presented at 1.66:1, 16x9 enhanced, and featuring Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio.

Featurette - In The Wake of Shackleton: Making Of (17:14)

    This making of is as far removed from the standard EPK style as the film is from the Hollywood action blockbuster. Fascinating - but again narrated by director George Butler in the same coma-inducing monotone as the commentary. Presented at 1.66:1, 16x9 enhanced, and featuring Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio.

Featurette - Iconic Images: Frank Hurley Remembered (11:49)

    This is just a collection of interviews with the twin daughters of expedition film-maker Frank Hurley. More interesting than it sounds, it is worth a watch (and don't forget - Hurley was flying the flag for Aussie filmmaking back then!) Presented at 1.66:1, 16x9 enhanced, and featuring Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio.

Featurette - Past And Present (10:02)

    This featurette is footage of the opening of the Endurance exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History, where the relatives of the crew of the Endurance were all brought together for a reunion. Very interesting, and well worth a watch. Presented at 1.66:1, 16x9 enhanced, and featuring Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio.


    There are three trailers on this disc. The first is the trailer for The Endurance, while the other two are for The Age Of Innocence and Sense and Sensibility. Obviously Columbia believe the audience for this disc is into period movies...

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;     The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;     If you select DVDs based on which trailers you prefer, then you probably need a new hobby. Everyone else will be just as happy with either version of this disc.


    The Endurance is a fascinating tale of an exhibition that succeeded in none of its goals except to lose no crew to the Antarctic conditions. This documentary is perfect for a rental on a lazy afternoon, and will undoubtedly find its way into use in many a high school history class. The documentary nature does mean it will be of less interest for sell-through as it has little re-watch potential.

    The video quality is quite variable as the film slips between historical footage and modern footage on a regular basis. Sadly, the modern footage often looks worse than the historical.

    The audio quality is sufficient for the needs of this documentary, with all dialogue easily discernible.

    The extensive extras package is somewhat unexpected, but quite pleasing to see. It provides a lot of interesting information that is well worth investigating.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Nick Jardine (My bio, it's short - read it anyway)
Tuesday, January 20, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-555K, using Component output
DisplayLoewe Xelos 5381ZW. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS787, THX Select
SpeakersRochester Audio Animato Series (2xSAF-02, SAC-02, 3xSAB-01) + 12" Sub (150WRMS)

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