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51 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Work From All Concerned
This film is described as an adaptation of Dava Sobel's book of the same name. It is far more than an adaptation, however. Charles Sturridge took a somewhat threadbare tale and turned it into a stirring, dramatic account of the life, tribulations, and ultimate achievement of the 18th century English horologist, John Harrison. It's not that Sobel's book is poorly written...
Published on 30 Nov 2002 by Bruce Kendall

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Great DVD with a lie from Dava Sobel
I do not doubt the Harrison's importance in the history of marine chronometer, the whole of XIX century the Navy and the other armadas have been finding the longitude with Joseph de Mendoça y Rios tables.

Dava Sobel takes the micky of Maskelyne an others astronomers like (Hayley, Newton, etc..) who defended the moon distances system when she pretends being an...
Published 6 months ago by Manuel Capdevila Maresma


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51 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Work From All Concerned, 30 Nov 2002
By 
Bruce Kendall "BEK" (Southern Pines, NC) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Longitude [DVD] [2000] (DVD)
This film is described as an adaptation of Dava Sobel's book of the same name. It is far more than an adaptation, however. Charles Sturridge took a somewhat threadbare tale and turned it into a stirring, dramatic account of the life, tribulations, and ultimate achievement of the 18th century English horologist, John Harrison. It's not that Sobel's book is poorly written. It is in fact entertaining and engrossing as far as it goes. The trouble is that she doesn't go into enough detail and leaves a lot of questions unanswered for the reader. Sturridge takes up her story and fleshes it out, providing the sort of background and character development that the book lacks. Providing the audience with a parallel storyline involving the WWI veteran, Rupert Gould (briefly noted in Sobel's book) also is a stroke of genius on the writer/director's part. The parallels between the lives of the earlier inventor and the shell-shocked vet are striking and poignant.
It does nothing to hurt Sturridge's cause to have assembled such a sterling British cast. Irons and Gambon have great roles to their credit, but they surpass themselves in this production. Sturridge has demonstrated that he can squeeze good acting out of a virtual lemon such as Ted Danson in Sturridge's adaptation of "Gulliver's Travel." He has far more to work with here, and the results are remarkable. Gambon, perhaps best known to American audiences for his lead role in "The Singing Detective," and the recent "Gosford Park," again delivers the goods in this masterful performance. He captures perfectly his character's idiosyncrasies, vicissitudes and ultimate triumph.
Much Of the series of course focuses on the "chase" for a solution to the longitude problem that plagued seamen for time immemorial. Methods for determining longitude before the chronometer ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous. Heavenly charts were sometimes supplanted by such ludicrous schemes as "the wounded dog method. The following is a transcription of a dialogue delivered by the method's inventor:
" Now, it is vital to my process, Sir Edmund, that each dog be wounded with the *same knife*, as these three animals have been, under my instructions, some three days ago. Now, the animals are then to be conveyed aboard one of His Majesty's ships, uh, under the supervision of a designated officer, whose task it is to *prevent the wound from healing*. Now the knife, however, would remain here, in London, and at *precisely noon*, each day, is to be plunged into the Powder of Sympathy, which would immediately aggravate the wound, so that each dog, now matter how many thousands of miles away he may be on his particular vessel, would begin to howl... thus."
Clearly, there was a need for a practical solution to this age-old problem, as thousands of sailors were placed in constant peril, owing to the fact that, without a reliable method, they really couldn't get their bearings. This is one area where Sobel does a very good job in her book describing the difficulty in determining longitude, versus the rather simple methods for calculating latitude. That a rather simple man of humble origins could work out the method was disconcerting to several members of the vaunted Board of Longitude, which was composed of members of the ruling class. Harrison's chief detractor and a rival for his claim of the longitude prize (20,000 pounds, equivalent to almost a million dollars by today's standard) was Sir Nevil Maskelyne. Maskelyne comes across in the film and in Sobel's book as a rather arrogant, self-inflated snob, who engages in actual subterfuge for Harrison's claims. Viewers/readers may be interested to not that Maskelyne also appears as a character in Thomas Pynchon's "Mason & Dixon," also in an unflattering light.
In terms of a recommendation, I would have to give Sobel's book between three and four stars. While it is entertaining and engaging, it leaves way too many avenues and dramatic possibilities unexplored. Sturridge fills in all the gaps, and then some. It is not often that I recommend a film over a book, but in this instance, the film is a far richer and satisfying experience.
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Fourth Dimension., 13 Jan 2004
By 
Themis-Athena (from somewhere between California and Germany) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Longitude [DVD] [2000] (DVD)
In the 18th century much had already been achieved in the exploration of the world: In addition to the achievements of Columbus, Cabot , Vespucci, Cartier, da Gama and others in the discovery of the Americas, Portuguese sailors commissioned by Prince Henry the Navigator (1394-1460) had sailed along the western African coast; Bartolomeu Dias (1457-1500) had circumnavigated the Cape of Good Hope; Vasco da Gama had been the first explorer to reach India by sea (1498); 1518-19 had seen Francisco Magellan's almost-complete global circumnavigation; in the mid-16th century Portuguese merchants and Jesuit missionaries had made contact with Japan; and about 50 years later the Dutch had established their first trading posts in South-East Asia. On their voyages, these early explorers had overcome storms, hunger, scurvy and uncertainty about their exact course and the feasibility of their aim; and they had suffered from a severe navigational handicap: For while it is comparatively easy to determine latitude, the exact determination of longitude requires consideration of the world's fourth dimension - time. Only the knowledge how long the rotation of the earth vis-a-vis the sun takes from one point to another enables a seaman to determine where precisely he is at any given moment; wherefore he needs to know both the time at his departure port and the time aboard ship. The inability to make that determination invariably adds the danger of getting lost at sea to the perils of every naval voyage (and in fact, even da Gama's Indian expedition was almost derailed by the navigator's miscalculation of his position off the African coast).
Having emerged from the shadow of the continental European powers and become a major seafaring nation in its own right, the England of the Age of Reason was no longer willing to sacrifice thousands of sailors to the inability of determining longitude. After the 1707 death of over 2000 men under the command of Admiral Sir Clowdisley Shovel, who had mistaken his ships' position for the coast of Brittany while in fact sailing right into the Scilly Islands off the coast of Cornwall, Queen Anne in 1714 signed an act promising a reward of ₤20,000 (today, approximately $5 million) to the discoverer of a "practicable and useful solution to the problem of finding longitude at sea." Among those taking the bait were proponents of rocket signals, would-be scientists working with injured dogs and a so-called "powder of sympathy" - and a self-taught Yorkshire carpenter named John Harrison (Michael Gambon).
"Longitude," based on Dava Sobel's novel of the same name, tells the story of Harrison's quest; expanding the book's premise, however, and contrasting it with that of Navy Commander Rupert Gould (Jeremy Irons), who - having suffered a nervous breakdown in WWI - unearthed and restored Harrison's by then almost-forgotten chronometers. Originally a TV mini-series, this is in fact one single coherent film; realized with the broad vision of a big-screen approach to filmmaking. Part naval adventure, part historic docudrama, the movie first and foremost explores the two lead characters' hearts and souls: That of the mercurial (yet, with his chronometers infinitely patient) Harrison and that of the fragile Gould; the former a puritan on a scientific mission, the latter searching for his peace of mind, hoping to regain it by giving new life to Harrison's timekeepers. They are united by their infinite respect for all watches and clocks, which to them are living things - dearer, in a way, than their own flesh and blood - and by a screenplay joining their stories into a single rhythm of discovery, setbacks, apparent triumph, despair and fulfillment; seamlessly cutting between the 18th century's candle-lit world and that of the 20th century and its technical advances.
Both Harrison and Gould are at odds with society's established rules: Harrison, in the eyes of the Board of Longitude created to oversee the 1714 act, is utterly unworthy of receiving the prize; awarding it to him, according to board member Lord Morton, would be letting "the longitude prize [be] stolen by a country toolmaker." Gould on the other hand, by sacrificing his marriage to the work on Harrison's chronometers, risks scandal and social isolation. And the juxtaposition of Harrison's ever-more practical approach (eventually resulting in the creation of a chronometer just a little over 5 inches in diameter, capable to measure longitude within the revolutionary degree of approximately 1 minute or about 1 mile) and the method favored by the astronomers on the Board of Longitude (lunar observation, soon earning them and their darling, Astronomer Royal-to-be Reverend Nevil Maskelyne (Samuel West) the nickname "lunatics" in the Harrison household) is a classic tale of David vs. Goliath, and remains so even after Harrison Sr. is joined by his son William (Ian Hart). Although his benefactor Graham has once suggested that, after having convinced the Admiralty and the Royal Society's initial appointees to the Board, Harrison's real test will be the politicians, it finally falls to Parliament to come to his aid, more than 50 years after he has begun his work; and after the intervention of stout Harrison supporter First Lord of the Admiralty and Secretary of State Lord Sandwich, Australian explorer Captain James Cook, and eventually even King George III, who likewise fancies himself a scientist.
In addition to director Charles Sturridge's vision, "Longitude" benefits from the great sense of authenticity displayed by cinematographer Peter Hannan, production designers Eileen Diss and Chris Lowe and costume designer Shirley Russell - and from a cast list that virtually reads like a "who is who" of contemporary British cinema; featuring inter alia, besides Gambon, Irons, Hart and West, Gemma Jones (Elizabeth Harrison), Anna Chancellor (Muriel Gould) and Brian Cox (Lord Morton), as well as brief appearances by Stephen Fry as "powder of sympathy" proponent Sir Kelnhelm Digby and German actress Heike Makatsch as King George's wife Charlotte. - This is a complex, fascinating movie; one of televisions's finest hours in recent years: Nothing for the mere casual viewer, but truly rewarding to anyone willing to join Harrison and Gould in their voyage of discovery.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping Viewing, 17 Jan 2003
By 
Steve (Leeds) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Longitude [DVD] [2000] (DVD)
From the writer and director of the excellent 'Shackleton', this tells the story of the development of a clock which will work at sea-so important a development it saved thousands of lives. This is no dull story but a gripping epic which, thanks to a fine script, sharp editing and excellent main performances from Jeremy Irons and Michael Gambon becomes impossible to leave, the equivalent of the unputdownable novel. Highly recommended.
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Fourth Dimension., 28 Dec 2006
By 
Themis-Athena (from somewhere between California and Germany) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Longitude [DVD] (DVD)
In the 18th century much had already been achieved in the exploration of the world: In addition to the achievements of Columbus, Cabot , Vespucci, Cartier, da Gama and others in the discovery of the Americas, Portuguese sailors commissioned by Prince Henry the Navigator (1394-1460) had sailed along the western African coast; Bartolomeu Dias (1457-1500) had circumnavigated the Cape of Good Hope; Vasco da Gama had been the first explorer to reach India by sea (1498); 1518-19 had seen Francisco Magellan's almost-complete global circumnavigation; in the mid-16th century Portuguese merchants and Jesuit missionaries had made contact with Japan; and about 50 years later the Dutch had established their first trading posts in South-East Asia. On their voyages, these early explorers had overcome storms, hunger, scurvy and uncertainty about their exact course and the feasibility of their aim; and they had suffered from a severe navigational handicap: For while it is comparatively easy to determine latitude, the exact determination of longitude requires consideration of the world's fourth dimension -- time. Only the knowledge how long the rotation of the earth vis-a-vis the sun takes from one point to another enables a seaman to determine where precisely he is at any given moment; wherefore he needs to know both the time at his departure port and the time aboard ship. The inability to make that determination invariably adds the danger of getting lost at sea to the perils of every naval voyage (and in fact, even da Gama's Indian expedition was almost derailed by the navigator's miscalculation of his position off the African coast).

Having emerged from the shadow of the continental European powers and become a major seafaring nation in its own right, the England of the Age of Reason was no longer willing to sacrifice thousands of sailors to the inability of determining longitude. After the 1707 death of over 2000 men under the command of Admiral Sir Clowdisley Shovel, who had mistaken his ships' position for the coast of Brittany while in fact sailing right into the Scilly Islands off the coast of Cornwall, Queen Anne in 1714 signed an act promising a reward of 20,000 pounds (today, approximately $5 million) to the discoverer of a "practicable and useful solution to the problem of finding longitude at sea." Among those taking the bait were proponents of rocket signals, would-be scientists working with injured dogs and a so-called "powder of sympathy" -- and a self-taught Yorkshire carpenter named John Harrison (Michael Gambon).

"Longitude," based on Dava Sobel's novel of the same name, tells the story of Harrison's quest; expanding the book's premise, however, and contrasting it with that of Navy Commander Rupert Gould (Jeremy Irons), who -- having suffered a nervous breakdown in WWI -- unearthed and restored Harrison's by then almost-forgotten chronometers. Originally a TV mini-series, this is in fact one single coherent film; realized with the broad vision of a big-screen approach to filmmaking. Part naval adventure, part historic docudrama, the movie first and foremost explores the two lead characters' hearts and souls: That of the mercurial (yet, with his chronometers infinitely patient) Harrison and that of the fragile Gould; the former a puritan on a scientific mission, the latter searching for his peace of mind, hoping to regain it by giving new life to Harrison's timekeepers. They are united by their infinite respect for all watches and clocks, which to them are living things -- dearer, in a way, than their own flesh and blood -- and by a screenplay joining their stories into a single rhythm of discovery, setbacks, apparent triumph, despair and fulfillment; seamlessly cutting between the 18th century's candle-lit world and that of the 20th century and its technical advances.

Both Harrison and Gould are at odds with society's established rules: Harrison, in the eyes of the Board of Longitude created to oversee the 1714 act, is utterly unworthy of receiving the prize; awarding it to him, according to board member Lord Morton, would be letting "the longitude prize [be] stolen by a country toolmaker." Gould on the other hand, by sacrificing his marriage to the work on Harrison's chronometers, risks scandal and social isolation. And the juxtaposition of Harrison's ever-more practical approach (eventually resulting in the creation of a chronometer just a little over 5 inches in diameter, capable to measure longitude within the revolutionary degree of approximately 1 minute or about 1 mile) and the method favored by the astronomers on the Board of Longitude (lunar observation, soon earning them and their darling, Astronomer Royal-to-be Reverend Nevil Maskelyne (Samuel West) the nickname "lunatics" in the Harrison household) is a classic tale of David vs. Goliath, and remains so even after Harrison Sr. is joined by his son William (Ian Hart). Although his benefactor Graham has once suggested that, after having convinced the Admiralty and the Royal Society's initial appointees to the Board, Harrison's real test will be the politicians, it finally falls to Parliament to come to his aid, more than 50 years after he has begun his work; and after the intervention of stout Harrison supporter First Lord of the Admiralty and Secretary of State Lord Sandwich, Australian explorer Captain James Cook, and eventually even King George III, who likewise fancies himself a scientist.

In addition to director Charles Sturridge's vision, "Longitude" benefits from the great sense of authenticity displayed by cinematographer Peter Hannan, production designers Eileen Diss and Chris Lowe and costume designer Shirley Russell -- and from a cast list that virtually reads like a "who is who" of contemporary British cinema; featuring inter alia, besides Gambon, Irons, Hart and West, Gemma Jones (Elizabeth Harrison), Anna Chancellor (Muriel Gould) and Brian Cox (Lord Morton), as well as brief appearances by Stephen Fry as "powder of sympathy" proponent Sir Kelnhelm Digby and German actress Heike Makatsch as King George's wife Charlotte. -- This is a complex, fascinating movie; one of televisions's finest hours in recent years: Nothing for the mere casual viewer, but truly rewarding to anyone willing to join Harrison and Gould in their voyage of discovery.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Vivid depiction of amazing story of politics & science., 20 Sep 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Longitude [VHS] [2000] (VHS Tape)
All sailors and commerce were reliant on the skills of navigators sailing the oceans to far-off places, so the need for accurate navigation was paramount. This is a vivid depiction of an amazing story of technology and determination succeeding amidst the complex political and establishment machinations. Wonderful!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A genius!, 12 May 2009
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This review is from: Longitude [DVD] (DVD)
I saw this two-part production when it was first aired on Cannel 4 (I believe) and have never forgotten it.

The production is as excellent as I remember it ... a very, very fine drama based on Sobell's book, but primarily about John Harrison who invented the first ever time-piece which was able to keep accurate time at sea.

The man was a genius and a hero. Goodness knows how mant lives have been saved at sea because for 50 years this man devoted his life to perfecting a watch that would be 'useful and practical' at sea and would enable sea-farer's to determine Longtitude accurately ... and who laid many of the foundations for subsequent clock and watch making.

This is a fascinating, gripping and, at times, moving piece of film making - superbly acted and directed.

The film explains pretty well what the longtitude problem was, but I understood it much better having also ordered and read Harrison - which is an excellent little book and a highly recommended compannion to the film.

Don't be put off by Longtitude if you are not technically minded. It is a lesson of one man's tenacity and eventual triumph against all the odds. Harrison's life and work is an inspiration to me and he is played here brilliantly by Michael Gambon.

This is a DVD well worth owning.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the most enjoyable TV dramas I have ever seen, 27 Jan 2010
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This review is from: Longitude [DVD] (DVD)
I have just finished watching this DVD again, this time with my two pre-teen daughters. For me, it is one of the most magnificent TV dramas ever produced. 198 minutes of sheer enjoyment. It is the story of two very great but little-known Englishmen, Harrison and Gould, set against the huge technical and political challenges of their time. Brilliantly portrayed by the cream of (mostly male) British acting talent, beautifully written and filmed. It is up there with Das Boot and Bleak House. And as an advanced GPS sat nav user it is staggering to think that just 250 years ago thousands of lives were being lost at sea simply because the sailors did not know where they were.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Can It Get Any Better?, 17 Aug 2008
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This review is from: Longitude [DVD] (DVD)
Having watched this photoplay of one of the great, yet little known, people of history, I was left to wonder if the film could have been any better. Having watched it again a dozen times, each time more critically, I am left to answer unequivocally "no". The plot, the casting, the effects, the script, the production; everything. It's "all good."

Set in two worlds, "Longitude" sets out to depict the lives of two men: the first is John Harrison, maker of the first correct timepiece for use at sea, struggling with the Board of Longitude re the recognition of his work. The man dedicated his life to finding a practical solution to the problem of finding longitude at sea, a solution to which all navigators today owe their livelihoods. As is said: "There isn't a sailor alive today whose path isn't made safer, shorter and straighter by the possession of a timekeeper". The second man is Rupert Gould, a former w.w.1 naval commander who suffers from post traumatic stress (commonly referred to at the time as a "nervous breakdown"), with a fascination for clocks and timepieces. Gould sets out to restore the all-but-forgotten Harrison to his proper place as one of the world's great inventors, with such fervor that both his personal and his professional life suffer.

The story itself is interesting enough to make for an excellent documentary. Add to that a certain amount of intrigue, humour and storytelling, and you have an entertaining spectacle for young and old. Hammer out a decent script, line up some beautiful locations, and all that's left is find some good actors. Thank God they didn't screw up there. Sir Michael Gambon does the role of his life as John Harrison, Jeremy Irons portrays his modern-time advocate Rupert Gould absolutely brilliantly, and Ian Hart grows into the role of Harrison junior with every word he says. Add to these an absolutely amazing stock of supporting actors, with emphasis on Brian Cox, Andrew Scott and Samuel West, and you feel like you're standing right next to the gates of history. This is how it really happened; Gambon IS John Harrison, and "Longitude" is nothing short of a masterpiece.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A lone genius whose story cannot fail to impress you, 30 Nov 2001
This review is from: Longitude [DVD] [2000] (DVD)
Michael Gambon brings to life in a touching and beautiful performance the life and struggle of a genius of our time. A man whose humanity and persistance made him refuse to give up against all the odds to try to remedy a problem that took the lives of so many. WATCH THIS...you will not be dissapointed
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Longitude,an extremely difficult problem that we now take for granted.I am so glad I bought this., 17 Aug 2013
By 
Mrs. D. Surrey "Castell" (Wales) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Longitude [DVD] (DVD)
Longitude.!! I mean how many times do we seriously give this a thought nowadays? None of us do,except mariners maybe.To put this into context,I now know,through this film how many men's lives depended on a true Longitude reading.
Now go on ask yourselves if you knew this? I bet most of you say no as I did.

The film also has a 2nd more modern theme running parallel,this is where Jeremy Irons who had been a Commander in the Navy and subsequently had a nervous breakdown,was captivated with the story of the origin of true Longitude at sea,and he devoted himself to unearthing and rebuilding all the old clocks made by Harrison..,however WW2 made his progress difficult as all the old works of art and valuable treasures were being moved into safe keeping.

You will enjoy this film as it shows the patient and harrowing quest of one man and his son who devoted their lives to finding out how to keep a clock pendulum steady on the high seas,through hell and high water..It was said by the experts at that time it could not be done,except by Astronomical readings.The Reverend Maskelyne was the one who adamantly stuck to this theory and totally rejected the trials and tribulations of inventor John Harrison,the son of a Yorkshire carpenter.

Maskelyne was a vindictive but well educated man and a social climber,who eventually took the chair of the Board of Longitude.This same board were offering a prize of thousands of pounds to the person who could devise a method of keeping true Longitude readings at sea.

Even when it was proven that Harrisons clocks were accurate at sea over the course of many extremely difficult trials,Maskelyne blocked the prize being given to Harrison,not once but several times.Harrison and his son soldiered on for 50 years until their chronometer finally solved the Longitude problem.

This is a very good film with plenty of action that comes in 2 parts.Initially It appeared to me, after the 1st half finished and the credits rolled up on the screen that that was that,however it started then on the second half so be patient and don't switch off as I nearly did.
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