Saturday, April 22, 2006

Eight Below

I'm a long time admirer of the beautiful huskies, their steely blue eyes, and their ability to survive the harshest of winter while pulling along a heavy sled as a team. They're the equivalent of the camel in the desert and the equal of Lassie. It's tough to keep one in Singapore, not that you can't (I've seen a couple in dog shows), but I suppose our weather here is too brutal.

Eight Below, inspired (loosely in my opinion) by true events, tells the story of a team of 8 huskies, who belong to a science foundation supporting antarctic expeditions. The first 30 minutes introduce the team of Buck, Dewey, Max, Maya, Old Jack, Shadow, Shorty and Truman, who are the "babies" of Paul walker's antarctic guide Jerry Shepard. We also get to see plenty of action by this team of dogs, from the two formation strategies used to pull a sled, to a rescue mission. Pretty amazing stuff.

What's more amazing is their tale of survival, for a period of almost 6 months, on their own. When a severe storm approaches, the humans gather to evacuate out of their base camp, leaving the dogs behind with a promise to come back and get them, which they never did. It's one of those survival of the fittest, and downright betrayal of man's best friend. Shepard tries hard to gather resources and persuade the right people to sponsor a 3-day trip for him to get his dogs back, but is always denied the request outright.

The next hour shuttles between the remorse that Shepard experiences, and that of what happened to the dogs, their deviously cunning way of hunting for food, of facing up to natural disasters, of fighting off powerful enemies like the leopard-seals, of basic survival. We see that they're a highly disciplined bunch that follows the leader, and have unsaid rituals too. You'll feel for the canines, and they will tug at your heartstrings.

And given the spotlight on the dogs, the humans are all overshadowed. It's just to provide a human element of emotional attachment that Shepard has for the dogs, and of some comedy (Jason Biggs of American Pie). Sorry people, the focus is on the extraordinary dogs. At the end of the day, this is a Disney picture, which accounts for its bittersweet feel good factor towards the end, a fictionalized take of an event, sort of like this year's March of the Penguins, sans documentary material.

My favourites in the show will have to be the dogs (there are 2 dogs casted per role) that played Max and Maya. Simply beautiful. Watch this movie, and you'll be a fan of the huskies too. Now to save up for a trip!

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