Beyond The Pole

Director    David L. Williams
Starring    Stephen Mangan, Rhys Thomas, Helen Baxendale, Mark Benton, Rosie Cavaliero, Alexander Skarsgard
Release    19 MAR (UK) (UK)    Certificate 15
2 stars


22nd March 2010

Documentaries made by self-righteous pricks overtly flaunting a ''message'' are an obvious but deserving target for satirists. You know the ones, second rate Michael Moores with a bee in their smug bonnet, out to change the world. It's the modern equivalent of standing on a high street with a placard saying ''Jesus loves you''. Imagine the sort of film Chris Morris could have made with this subject matter. In the hands of director David Williams however, Beyond The Pole is less sassy satire, more mediocre buddy movie.

The premise is thus - two friends, Mark (Stephen Mangan) and Brian (Rhys Thomas) embark on the first carbon neutral, organic, vegetarian expedition to the North Pole to raise awareness of global warming, having never attempted anything of the sort before. Helen Baxendale plays the producer making a film about the journey, following them through their preparations and providing the voiceover for footage shot in the tundra.

[gallery]En route the hapless pair must contend with polar bears, a rival expedition of gay Norwegians (a cameo from True Blood's Alexander Skarsgard) and Mark's loss of sanity. Meanwhile, back at home sit Mark's second best friend Graham (Mark Benton) and Brian's pregnant girlfriend Sandra (Rosie Cavaliero), anxiously awaiting news... until they lose contact with the expedition and panic sets in.

The opportunity to take a sardonic swipe at zealous environmentalists is not taken advantage of, so what we're left with is Mangan and Thomas arsing around in the snow. Mangan is the earnest self-important one - the Howard Moon to Rhys Thomas' Vince Noir - who occasionally loses it in a magnificent strop. Brian is more concerned about getting into the Guinness Book of Records than saving the planet; he's the affable sidekick along for the ride. It's amusing enough, they're a likeable duo with sound comedic credentials and a good sense of camaraderie, but it's not enough to pad out a flimsy film.

It's clear this movie was made on a budget and of course we should all support independent British filmmaking, but if your resources are stretched, your script has to be twice as good, and this falls short. Beyond The Pole has its roots in a strong idea with fun (but familiar) characters, but fails to live up to its potential.

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