Follow Us on Twitter

Eight Below - Preview

Eight Below

Preview by Jack Foley

FRANK Marshall is a prolific name within the movie industry. Best known as a producer of all-time greats such as The Indiana Jones trilogy and The Sixth Sense, he is also the acclaimed director of films such as Alive and Arachnophobia.

His latest, Eight Below, is a Disney family movie inspired by a true story and starring Paul Walker.

It is a cracking family adventure that genuinely delivers the goods – an accomplishment reflected in the strong US box office and generally positive American reviews.

Walker stars as Jerry Shepard, a guide in Antarctica, who is asked to assist UCLA geologist Davis McLaren (Bruce Greenwood) across some treacherous ice fields in search of a meteorite from Mercury.

Due to the difficulty of the terrain, the duo have to rely on the services of eight sled dogs to get them there, during which a big storm threatens the lives of all concerned.

The same storm forces the scientists to leave the research centre earlier than anticipated and due to the injuries sustained by McLaren during the expedition, there’s no room on the plane for the dogs. As the weather worsens, it becomes clear that the dogs will have to survive the harsh Antarctic winter on their own, unless Shepard can get back to save them.

The ensuing film is a race against time for survival that offers some genuinely exciting moments.

Commenting on the challenges of filming in Smithers, miles north of Vancouver, Marshall said that it was tough but necessary to maintain the realistic feel of the movie.

“Incredibly, we had found this place that sort of served as a kind of Antarctic back lot, where we had six locations within five or ten minutes of each other on top of the mountain that has no trees. Any direction we looked, it was flat and there were snow-covered mountains around.

“So it was fabulous for us to be able to move should the weather change.”

He also claimed that his experience filming Alive helped a great deal

“Something I learned on that film is that you have to anticipate what’s going to happen with the weather, so when it would start to go from sun to a white out or a blizzard we were ready to move.

“I would prepare with the actors every morning three different scenes depending on what the weather was like. We used it as a positive aspect even though it was freezing and changing all the time.”

He also ensured early on that his star, Walker, was comfortable around dogs.

“It was one of the most important questions that I had for Paul when we first met – ‘do you have a dog’? When he said ‘yes’, I told him he was 90% of the way there.

“That bond and that relationship between man and dog is not something you can fake,” he continued. “So that was really important for the character and the minute he got up there I could see he was really comfortable with the dogs.”

Critics in America certainly warmed to the film’s charms.

The Chicago Sun Times, for example, wrote that it was ‘remarkable how in a film where we know with an absolute certainty that all or most of the dogs must survive, Eight Below succeeds as an effective story. It works by focusing on the dogs’.

While the Washington Post declared that ‘the eight canine stars of Eight Below pull their weight literally and figuratively in this lively dog-in-jep adventure from Disney’.

USA Today, meanwhile, stated that ‘it’s an engrossing film that reminds us of the nobility and grace of man’s best friend, and of the fierce will to survive in the face of the harshest of odds’.

And Arizona Republic declared: “In 2002, the cringefest Snow Dogs stripped huskies of their dignity. Eight Below restores it.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer, meanwhile, opined: “Eight Below is dazzling to look at, and nicely intercuts the human relationships with the pooches’ awesome struggles to stay alive in the white, wintry wild.”

And Entertainment Weekly noted that it was ‘a spirit-affirming family affair about the resourcefulness of God’s creatures’.

The final word, however, goes to the Hollywood Reporter which concluded that ‘Disney may have written the book on live-action animal adventure stories, but it has been quite a while since there has been a chapter as terrific as Eight Below’.

The film opens in the UK on Thursday, April 20.

Paul Walker talks Flags of Our Fathers