Based on the true story of a Japanese expedition, when Jerry, Paul Walkers character, is out with the eight dogs taking Doctor McLaren to fine his misson, a major storm arises and the dogs and the two men barely make it back to the station, McLaren suffering a broken leg and saved by the bravery of the dogs and Jerry. The crew must evacuate and Jerry insists the dogs be taken out with them, but he is promised that the pilot Katie will return for them, a deed which goes unkept because of the severe weather. Although the doggie picture Eight Below gets off to a bit of a slow start, the film is still a lovely evocation of survival against the odds and one man’s determination to save his dearly beloved four legged friends.
Sadly, with these types of films, if someone loves a dog sooooooo much in a film, you can pretty much guess what is going to happen. In the same formula as Marley & Me, Hachi, and others, yes the ending is sad. While I do say that it is a lesson of the true love and loyalty that dog holds for man, and that man should hold for dog, for the rest of it, it’s a painful reminder of all the dogs left behind life the Vietnam War 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.
In Japan, the dog film exists as a genre to teach children about life, of which death is very much a part. I didn’t see Antartica so I have nothing to compare this to, but this still was a good movie. I know some people are thinking “who cares about some dogs being saved?” However, this story is so much more than that. It’s about trying to save something that you love no matter what it is, be it a human being, or not. Sure a movie is more poignant when it is accurately based on a true story. But it doesn’t have to be an exact duplicate of the true story in order to derive equal meaning from it. All of the scenes involving the dogs had a realistic feel to it. I had no idea that dogs could survive in such a harsh and frigid environment for so long.
I happened to be watching this film with a friend of mine and there was a scene in the movie that literally made her jump off the couch and scream! There was a limited amount of language, which was well off for a young adult crowd. I was particularly touched when I learned that two of the dogs were stray dogs rescued in Colorado shortly before they were picked to act in this movie. I have watched a lot of movies based on true stories, but this movie is in a field of its own. Also, I surprise myself with that statement since it is a Disney family film, but I can’t deny a good movie when I see one. Paul Walker deserves some sort of nod because this is his best role to date. The kinship, melancholy and guilt he portrayed for the dogs was unmistakable. No doubt he loved those dogs. Thumbs up.