23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Both heartbreaking and heartwarming -- and utterly superb,
This review is from: Eight Below [DVD] (DVD)
Eight Below is an absolutely fantastic film, but those who, like me, are hypersensitive animal lovers should know up front that this is a tear-jerker. You've got the veritable wringer going both ways here; I cried out of grief, I cried out of joy, and - well, I'm just glad I watched this movie by myself. The twelve minutes of ending credits actually make sense - theatre goers might have needed that much time to get themselves settled so they could get up and leave. (And don't go thinking twelve minutes of credits means the movie is short, as it runs close to two hours before it gets to those end credits.) The whole cast and crew really are fantastic - this couldn't have been an easy film to make. They didn't actually film in Antarctica, of course, but all these guys still endured some incredibly harsh conditions (in Norway, Greenland, and Canada) during the shoot. Of course, as good as the human actors are, the dogs - six Siberian Huskeys and two malamutes - are the heart and soul of this movie. De Niro, Morgan Freeman, Al Pacino - these are all great actors, but there's no greater actor than a truly talented canine actor. I was extremely happy to see the canine actors' actual names appear in the credits - but they really should have earned top billing (although, admittedly, it's hard to fit 16 names - two dogs portrayed each canine actor) in a marquee. In this film, you'll witness some of the most incredibly selfless acts imaginable, not to mention ample proof that dogs absolutely know, feel, and understand a vast variety of emotions.
Here's the deal. Thanks to a bad early winter storm and a scientist who just had to find his precious little Mercury rock, guide Jerry Shepherd (Paul Walker) is forced to abandon his team of beloved sled dogs as his Antarctic research station is evacuated post-haste. His friend and potential love interest Katie (Moon Bloodgood) promises to fly right back and get them, so Jerry secures their collars, leaving them securely bound to a chain out in the snow. When Katie is unable to return, the dogs are basically left to die a sure and awful death. Jerry, as you would expect, is in anguish over the dogs' fate, blaming himself (when he should have been blaming Katie) for the tragedy. Desperate to get back to them, he tries to raise money from anyone and everyone, including the scientist who would be perpetually frozen under the Antarctic ice were it not for those dogs.
Months pass as we watch the dogs struggle to survive on their own in the most inhospitable of conditions. Freeing themselves from their chains is just the first of many obstacles the dogs face. As you can imagine, finding food and staying warm are also extremely difficult - and they face some external threats, as well. There are some incredibly tragic moments the sensitive viewer will have to endure, one of which is going to haunt me for some time, but the bond between these dogs is phenomenal, and it is fascinating to watch the hierarchy of this group change over time. These poor creatures go through so much together, and I'm telling you that you will just melt in the baby blue eyes of young Max as he epitomizes the kind of humanity that we humans can no longer call our own.
Obviously, I think this is a terrific film, and an especially touching family film, but I also think parents should consider whether or not they want their youngsters to watch it. There are some real tragedies in this film, scenes that had me crying like a baby, and this film might be somewhat traumatic in spots to the sensitive child. These scenes aren't strung out or sensationalized, but they are there. Any good parent, though, should know his/her child well enough to know how he/she might react to this kind of thing. I hope legions of people will watch Eight Below, though, as it is an exceedingly touching film.