Shackleton (2002)

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Released 4-Nov-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Menu Audio
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2002
Running Time 205:50
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (102:44) Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Charles Sturridge

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Kenneth Branagh
Matt Day
Phoebe Nicholls
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music Adrian Johnston

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    "For scientific leadership, give me Scott, for swift and efficient travel give me Amundsen. But when you are in a hopeless situation, when you are seeing no way out, get down on your knees and pray for Shackleton. Incomparable in adversity, he was the miracle worker who would save your life against all the odds and long after your number was up. The greatest leader that ever came on God's earth, bar none." (Sir Raymond Priestley, a member of the 1907-9 Nimrod Expedition).

    Written and directed by Charles Sturridge, and featuring excellent production values, Shackleton is the brilliant two-part mini-series that recounts the amazing adventures of Sir Ernest Shackleton (Kenneth Branagh), and his ill-fated Endurance Antarctic expedition. Shackleton is an inspiring true story of determination and survival against all odds, and I thoroughly recommend it.

    Shackleton is one of the greatest of the British Antarctic explorers. The first of his voyages to Antarctica was made as a member of the 1901-4 expedition, led by Robert F. Scott. Shackleton later commanded a south polar expedition (1907-9), in which the south magnetic pole was located. The scientific results of the expedition were of vast importance, and Shackleton was Knighted in 1909. Shackleton published an account of his expedition, The Heart of the Antarctic, and then worked as a lecturer.

   It is at this point, in 1914, that Shackleton picks up the story. As commander of the Trans-Antarctic expedition, Shackleton plans to become the first man to cross on foot over the south polar region, a distance of about 3,200km. The war brewing in Europe, (World War I), makes it difficult for Shackleton to raise the 60,000 pounds needed to finance the expedition, but Shackleton is not a man to give up easily. With the funds raised, and an expedition team of 28, Shackleton sets sail for the Antarctic. However, close to their destination, things turn rather nasty. Shackleton's ship, Endurance, encounters pack-ice much farther north than expected, and soon their ship is surrounded, and trapped by the ice.

    (SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read) Shackleton is forced to order his men to abandon ship, and the Endurance is crushed by the ice in October, 1915. It sinks without trace. Shackleton then leads his party, with few provisions, on foot, carrying lifeboats, across 300km of drifting pack-ice (as they had not reached the Antarctic shoreline). The team have to battle the elements in what is the harshest weather anywhere on the planet. As the ice begins to break up, the starving men then have to row and navigate their way through the freezing sea to an outcrop of rock, called Elephant Island. Shackleton then takes the five men left standing, but who are suffering from starvation, exposure, and severe frost bite, on a lifeboat voyage of about 1300km through some of the wildest seas to South Georgia Island. Once there, Shackleton leads the only two men who are able to walk on a journey which forces them to climb mountains (without any mountain climbing equipment), and cross the glaciated South Georgia Island to reach a whaling station on its north coast. Shackleton arrives here in 1916, and with the help of the whalers, he then returns to rescue every single member of his team. True to his word, through his bravery, determination, and skilled leadership, Shackleton returns all of his men home safely.

    While Shackleton does touch on some of Shackleton's character flaws, such as his on-going, extra-marital relationship with Rosalind Chetwynd (Embeth Davidtz), and his strained marriage with his wife, Emily (Phoebe Nicholls), these aspects of the story seem to be forgotten in Part 2, and there is no resolution, or return to them. Indeed, I found that Shackleton provides very little insight into what drove this incredibly focussed and determined man to accomplish what he did. Maybe a three-part series was required, which also covered some of his childhood, and the period following his return to England?

    Interestingly, Wolfgang Petersen, director of Das Boot, and The Perfect Storm, is currently developing a movie based around this story, entitled Endurance. Aussies Mel Gibson and Russell Crowe have both been linked to the project. Personally, I think Petersen would be the perfect director for this project, and Crowe or Branagh perfect as Shackleton.

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Transfer Quality


    Shot on location in England, Greenland, and Iceland, Shackleton features some beautiful cinematography and stunning visuals, captured by Director of Photography Henry Braham. There is limited use of file footage and CGI, but both are blended well into the rest of the feature. The transfer captures this, and while there are some hazy and grainy moments, the transfer is generally very good for a made-for-television production.

    The transfer is well presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, and it is 16x9 enhanced.

    The image is generally sharp, but the shadow detail is often lacking, especially in the darker scenes, such as at 35:11.

    The colours appear to be intentionally muted as part of the art direction, and the skin tones are accurate.

    While there is occasion pixelization, I had no serious complaints about MPEG artefacts. Very rarely, aliasing appears as a slight shimmer, such as on the ship's rigging at 37:18. Again, this is so rare and so slight that I even debated mentioning it. Small film artefacts and some edge enhancement appear infrequently throughout, but I never found them distracting.

    There are no subtitles present.

    This is an RSDL disc, with the layer change placed between Parts 1 and 2, at 102:44.

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


    There is only one audio option, Dolby Digital Stereo. While the surround flag is not set, I set my receiver to Dolby Surround and I was quite pleased with the results.

    The dialogue quality and audio sync are fine.

    The musical score is credited to Adrian Johnston, and it is full of foreboding and is suitably dramatic. An orchestra was used to record the score which makes a real difference. As I wrote earlier, this made-for-television production exhibits excellent production values.

    The surround sound mix is obviously quite front-heavy, but the rear speakers are used effectively to help carry the score and provide ambience. This  maintains a nice soundfield at times, while keeping the viewer firmly focussed on the screen.

    There is some re-directed bass, and my subwoofer effectively to supported the sound effects, such as the ice crushing the ship at 114:44.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    Sadly, there are no extras. Considering that this is a Channel 4 production, in association with ABC TV, a documentary on Shackleton would have been nice (See R1 v R4).


    A static menu with Dolby Digital stereo audio.

R4 vs R1

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

    Shackleton was released on DVD in Region 1 in April this year, as both a 2-disc and 3-disc version. The 2-disc version is essentially the same as ours (I assume that the discs are single-layered). The 3-disc version is described as a Collector's Edition, and the comparison follows:

    The Region 4 DVD misses out on:

    The Region 1 DVD misses out on:

    I would favour the R1 Collector's Edition for the third disc of extras.


    Shackleton is a fascinating and inspiring story of determination and survival.

    The video quality is very good for a made-for-television production.

    The audio quality is also very good for a made-for-television production.

    There are no extras.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Brandon Robert Vogt (warning: bio hazard)
Friday, November 15, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-535, using S-Video output
DisplayGrundig Elegance 82-2101 (82cm, 16x9). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationSony STR DE-545
SpeakersSony SS-V315 x5; Sony SA-WMS315 subwoofer

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