Eight Below

Eight magnificent sled dogs must fend for themselves amid Antarctica's frozen wastes in this top-notch survival adventure that will reduce the coldest heart to a puddle of warm slush. Midway through a dangerous research mission, Antarctic survival guide Jerry Shepard (Paul Walker), his geologist client, Dr. Davis McClaren (Bruce Greenwood), and Jerry's team...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Eight magnificent sled dogs must fend for themselves amid Antarctica's frozen wastes in this top-notch survival adventure that will reduce the coldest heart to a puddle of warm slush. Midway through a dangerous research mission, Antarctic survival guide Jerry Shepard (Paul Walker), his geologist client, Dr. Davis McClaren (Bruce Greenwood), and Jerry's team of eight sled dogs are called back to the National Science Foundation Research base: A severe early-winter storm is coming in from the south and the entire complex must be evacuated. Davis nearly dies of hypothermia after plunging into an icy pool — his life saved by the brave sled dog Maya — but they make it back just as the storm hits. Jerry's boss (Gerard Plunkett) tells him that once the plane is loaded with NSF personnel, there won't be room for Jerry's dogs, but pilot Katie (Moon Bloodgood) — Jerry's ex-girlfriend — assures him that she'll return for the dogs as soon as possible. Jerry, severely frostbit and nearly unconscious, chains them up tightly and boards. When he comes to at the McMurdo Antarctic Research Station, Katie delivers the bad news: The storm is so bad that everyone is evacuating Antarctica altogether; no planes will be returning to the base, certainly not for a pack of dogs. Knowing they can't survive until spring chained to a post in below-zero temperatures, Jerry frantically spends the next several months trying to find a flight back. Meanwhile, after the first 15 days on their own, the dogs embark on a remarkable ordeal of survival. Inspired by a true story, David DiGilio's screenplay was "suggested" by the hugely successful 1983 Japanese adventure film NANKYOKU MONOGATARI (released in the U.S. in 1984 as ANTARCTICA), which was in turn based on an actual 1958 incident in which 15 sled dogs were inadvertently marooned at an Antarctic research station. Like the Japanese original, DiGilio's version imbues each dog with a distinct personality, which makes their adventures all the more harrowing. While the result isn't nearly as traumatic as the Japanese original, parents should be warned that not every dog makes it — you might be having a "What happened to Bambi's mommy?"-style conversation sooner then you thought — and there's one very scary encounter with a leopard seal that's more terrifying than anything in JAWS.

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