Wednesday, December 09, 2009


Reviews are getting posted a little less promptly now that the locks are off the alcohol cupboard in Bishopsgate (quite literally) and the European fixed income divergence trade is starting to bear fruit. Which brings me to a preview of a movie that one might think a little at odds with the purported aim of this blog - a review site that loves shameless violence and scorns vegetarianism in all its manifestations. Not that I don't have time for the earnest agit-doc, but it always seems to me that they make not one iota of difference: after all, no unrepentant flat-earther is going to shell out his hard-earned cash to see some flick from the Lib-Lab coalition. To my mind, this genre of film is basically preaching to the already converted Guardian readership. This is where BEYOND THE POLE comes in - a new British film touting itself as the first environmental comedy. We sent our correspondent - a man more at home with ultra-violent Korean flicks - to investigate......

"Beyond the Pole sounds ghastly, promoted as a feelgood environmental comedy, which does it a disservice. It's not schmaltzy, doesn't preach, and has no over-the-top scene where everybody cheers. But it is very funny. Filmed documentary-style,
Stephen Mangan (GREEN WING) and Rhys Thomas (THE FAST SHOW) work well as the glass-half-full and glass-half-empty buddies who are equally foolhardy. They set off from Lichfield to the North Pole hoping to set some sort of Guinness record. The film charts the obstacles they face, which include polar bears, frostbitten penises and, through their radio, relationship strife back home.

For the most part the film belies its shoestring budget and radio play origins. The Arctic is beautiful even when purpotedly shot on a camcorder. The cast is never hammy, and benefits from the comic timing of Rosie Cavaliero as the long-suffering girlfriend and Mark Benton as the local amateur radio enthusiast. In a stroke of luck for the filmmakers, it also boasts a pre-True Blood
Alexander SkarsgÄrd camping it up as a rival trekker.

Moviemaking on ice was never going to be easy. To some extent location filming in three weeks against-the-odds, on a Greenland ice field that was due to melt, has helped the performances. The dialogue comes across as improvised and the tension seems genuine. However, the script's ending needed more development prior to the shoot. We know it's inconceivable that such a pair of losers could make it to the North Pole and back unscathed. Eventually things have to go seriously wrong. This juncture is held off as long as possible to keep the humour flowing, but once the fun is over, the conclusion feels perfunctory. With more pathos, and maybe even a bit of schmaltz, Beyond the Pole would linger in your mind as a charming comic tragedy."

BEYOND THE POLE will be released in the UK in early 2010.

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