Nobody dies in this antidote to The Perfect Storm, yet rumor has it that many of the 27 men recruited by explorer Ernest Shackleton to cross Antarctica in 1914 responded to an ad reading "safe return doubtful." This bittersweet large-format documentary on that harrowing expedition is firmly grounded in fact: five months after the Endurance sailed from London, it was trapped in ice on the Weddell Sea, where it eventually was crushed and sank. Some of expedition photographer Frank Hurley's still photos and 35-millimeter film footage survived the year-and-a-half ordeal, and director George Butler frames these documents with breathtaking 70-millimeter vistas as well as judicious re-creations shot during two recent expeditions. A story like this doesn't need much dressing up, and postproduction emphases, such as gently spotlighting individuals in group photographs, are sparing; the narration includes matter-of-fact and evocative readings from records kept by the men, who reasonably believed they were writing only for posterity.
Director: George Butler
Producer: George Butler, Louise Rosen, Susanne Simpson and Scott Swofford
Cast: Kevin Spacey, Conrad Anker, Reinhold Messner and Stephen Venables