Beyond the Pole (UK - BD RB)
Marcus ventures unaided to the North Pole and wishes he'd stayed at home...
Two friends, Brian (Rhys Thomas) and Mark (Stephen Mangan), decide they are going to travel to the North Pole, completely unaided. They’ll use their own means to get there, they'll use a friend's long wave radio to stay in contact with home, and they’ll show the world how to save the environment.
On top of all that they’ll get in the Guinness Book of Records as the first unsupported, carbon neutral, vegetarian, and organic expedition ever to the North Pole. That is until a Norwegian duo (one of whom is played by True Blood’s Alexander Skarsgård) catch up with them and the pressures of Mark’s competitive edge put the duo’s chances in jeopardy.
I should really look into the review material I get sent before I sit down to watch them. I put this on expecting a documentary about the either the North or South Pole and the opportunity to see some nature footage in beautiful HD. Immediately I caught up to the reality of the situation; Beyond the Pole is a spoof documentary taking a pop at the many expeditions and environmental awareness projects that get more of an audience nowadays.
It’s quite a nice angle for a comedy and for the first ten minutes or so made for quite a solid introduction to a good idea. Unfortunately, for me anyway, after that opening Beyond the Pole just slips into the sort of Channel 4 sitcom that I just don’t find funny. Despite the rather unique location for a comedy, I didn’t find the two leads either funny or all that likable and I guess that kept me at arm’s length for the duration.
That being said there were still some chuckles to be had. Alexander Skarsgård, playing one of the gay Norwegian explorers, was a joy to watch in comedy mode. He has a dry humour to him in True Blood, but here he really offers up a goofy slice of smiles and a scene revolving around an argument about if accepting a jammy dodger biscuit from the Norwegians is considered being aided in their quest is probably the best in the whole movie.
Despite respecting its intentions, Beyond the Pole is neither funny enough to be a good comedy, or detailed or sharp enough to feel believable as a documentary. The drama is clichéd and frankly a little over played, especially in the second half and I found it to be a little too shambolic to work as well it could.
For a TV documentary, Beyond the Pole would be considered very good to look at. The HD clarity sells the location, the brightness of the blue sky against the glistening snow looks fantastic, the textures in the woolly clothes and expedition gear all look incredibly detailed and naturally lit, really there’s very little to complain about if you like a bit of low-fi HD documentary filmmaking.
In amongst all this is some stock footage (the likes of which usually show up in environmental docs—you know whaling ships, traffic jams, and animals in jeopardy) which all look a whole lot dirtier than the actual movie and there’s even some camcorder footage from the duo’s head cams which doesn’t compare to the film camera shots but still looks pretty great despite the shaky vision.
Keeping it simple, the dialogue is captured raw for the most part. Offering up a natural hiss in places and providing a realistic sound to everything. The track picks up every rustle of a jacket in the tent, every crunch of snow beneath their feet and generally provides everything you’d expect from a documentary style track.
The soundtrack gets a little punchier with the acoustic guitar resonating from the rear speakers and the odd bit of strings and harmonica boosting the presence further. Dialogue stays clear and crisp in the front speakers and the odd spike in atmospheric shows itself off once in a while (though not regularly).
The first extra feature is an interview on daytime TV show This Morning (08:43 HD) (with the delightful Holly Willoughby in glorious HD) and offers up a little more of the radio show origins of the project.
‘On Set’ (10:40 HD) is some raw footage showing the limitations of filming in the unpredictable location and the ‘LA Q&A’ (09:20 SD) features director David L. Williams taking questions from the audience.
‘Norwegian Impro’ (02:06 HD) is by far the best extra and has the two Norwegian characters mucking about to find some real comedy highlights in the snow.
Rounding up, there’s the trailer (02:17 HD), an ‘Online Ad’ (01:39 HD) and a ‘Don’t be Impotent’ (04:42 HD), which seems to be a little promotional piece for the Friends of the Earth charity.
Lastly there’s ‘Ben & Mark Deleted Scenes’ (02:55 HD) which is basically just some more mini moments of the two.
[i]Beyond the Pole[/i} is a solid idea for satire and I’m sure there’s an audience out there who will eat it up. For me I found it pretty unfunny outside of a few smirks here and there and it ended up feeling like a bit of a wasted opportunity in an arena that is ripe for comedy pops but hey that’s just me. Comedy is in the eye of the beholder, right?
As for the disc, we’re given a good video presentation, though it’s more high end TV filmmaking as opposed to bigger budget in style and the extras are adequate enough (more than adequate if you’re a fan of Holly Willoughby in HD). There’s not too much here that would demand repeat viewings but it’s a good change of pace for the ninety minutes you might consider dedicating to it.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 5th July 2010
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 English
Extras: This Morning Interview, On the Set, LA Q&A, Norwegian Impro, Trailers, Deleted Scenes
Easter Egg: No
Director: David L. Williams
Cast: Rhys Thomas, Stephen Mangan, Mark Benton, Rosie Cavaliero, Alexander Skarsgård
Genre: Comedy and Documentary
Length: 86 minutes
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