Eight Below - Review
Review by Jack Foley
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Extras to be confirmed, Interactive menus, Subtitles (English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch), Subtitles for hard of hearing (English), Bonus footage, Trailers, Deleted scenes, ‘Making of’ documentary
FRANK Marshall is no slouch when it comes to creating memorable action-adventure movies, having directed Alive and Arachnophobia and produced the Indiana Jones trilogy.
That impressive pedigree transmits well to Eight Below, a rousing tale of survival against the odds that’s partly inspired by a true story.
The film chronicles the fate of eight huskies who become stranded in Antarctica during a particularly harsh winter as well as the man who was determined to rescue them.
It picks up as Paul Walker’s guide, Jerry Shepard, is forced to escort a geologist, Davis (Bruce Greenwood), on a mission to find a meteorite with his beloved sled dogs leading the way.
The mission proves successful but the two men face peril during their return and have to count on their canine companions to survive.
With a fierce storm rapidly approaching, the men make it back to base and are evacuated but must leave the dogs behind due to pressures on space. The deteriorating weather then makes it impossible for air crews to return to save them.
Stranded and alone, the dogs begin a harsh battle for survival while Jerry desperately seeks out the funds necessary to mount a retrieval operation.
Marshall’s film is at its most effective when following the dogs, yet it also provides a strong platform for Walker to display some impressive acting credentials that hint at a previously untapped talent.
It also recalls the best traditions of Disney animals-in-peril tales without necessarily conforming to the tedious sentiment that has, um, dogged so many.
Eight Below is far grittier than audiences may expect and contains some genuinely intense situations that might upset very young viewers.
But such moments merely serve to make the dogs’ plight more authentic – as does Don Burgess’ impressive cinematography.
The canines in question also respond to the task well, developing a strong bond with the audience that makes for a surprisingly emotional finale.
Whether hunting seagulls for much-needed nutrition, or helping each other out of dangerous situations, their exploits make for exciting viewing.
It is only during the human sub-plot that the film gets a little snowed under as Walker runs about Washington attempting to find someone willing to take him back to Antarctica while re-kindling a romance with Moon Bloodgood’s sympathetic bush pilot, Katie.
But even then, Eight Below never outstays its welcome in spite of a patience-testing two-hour running time allowing Walker, instead, the rare opportunity to flesh out a character.
The result is a totally absorbing family adventure that deserves to collar a large audience.
Running time: 2hrs