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director: Espen Sandberg (kon-tiki)

starring: Pal Sverre Hagen, Katherine Waterston, Christian Rubeck and Adrian Lukis


REVIEWER: lyall carter

The true story of Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, the first man to arrive on the South Pole.

There is nothing quite like a movie set in the cold, icy frozen landscape of the South Pole to help ease the heat of the sweltering summer we are experiencing here in New Zealand at the moment. And while Amundsen is an intriguing exploration of the man and his achievements, at times it feels that it spreads itself a little thin. 


Roald Amundsen’s dream of reaching the North Pole haunts him throughout his life. He is obsessed with the idea of discovering lands in this last unchartered area of the world. Roald wins the race against Robert Scott and becomes the first man ever to conquer the South Pole, but in his diary he writes: “Never has a man stood in a spot so diametrically opposed to where he truly wanted to be." 


Amundsen portrays Roald’s all-consuming, boundless drive as a polar explorer, and reveals the tragedy he brought on himself and others by sacrificing everything in these icy wastelands to achieve his dream –only to find out there was nothing on the North Pole to discover.


Amundsen is one of those old school epics. In recent cinematic memory, true stories or biographies of the famous focused on particular moments in their lives instead of the person's full life story. Amundsen, through narration from his brother, seeks to explore the full extent of Amundsen’s life from his early childhood obsession with the Arctic and his disappearance and death in that same place years later. 


And while narratively that works to a certain extent, you can’t help but feel that the film takes on too much material to cover and we lose a lot of the potential exploration of the character of Amundsen and the people around him. Had the film focused only on his push to the South Pole there may have been some more depth to and exposition of Amundsen.


However the production is breathtakingly gorgeous from the expansive, icy stretches of the Arctic to the claustrophobic, dank and barely lit halls of the Royal Geographical Society, Amundsen is a beautiful looking film.


While Amundsen is an intriguing exploration of the man and his achievements, at times it feels that it spreads itself a little thin.


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