Paul Walker as Jerry Shepherd
Bruce Greenwood as Dr. Davis McLaren
Jason Biggs as Cooper
Moon Bloodgood as Katie
Dr. Davis McLaren (Bruce Greenwood) has come around the world to the most isolated place on Earth – Antarctica – to investigate meteorites. To do so he’s going to need professional Antarctic guide Jerry Shepherd (Paul Walker) and his crack team of sled dogs to get him across the ice. But when McLaren is hurt in a freak accident, he and the rest of the field team must be evacuated, leaving the dogs to fend for themselves until the weather clears and they can be rescued.
At first sight a fun but slightly sappy man-and-his-dogs story, “Eight Below” quickly evolves into a well-crafted wilderness adventure reminiscent of Disney’s heyday as the dogs roam the naked Antarctic wastes, trying to survive. “Eight Below” moves back and forth between the dogs plight and the lives of the human survivors back in the States, particularly Shepherd, wracked with guilt for leaving them behind.
Unfortunately, the human bits are never really as enjoyable as the wilderness scenes. Walker’s particular brand of earnest performance fits Jerry Shepherd well, but it’s the dog’s story and nothing else is ever quite as interesting.
And that’s where the real strength and enjoyment of “Eight Below” lies, with the dogs and their journey, hunting for food, playing with the Borealis, and in one particularly exciting sequence, fighting with a hungry sea leopard over food. It covers quite a bit of familiar ground, but it does so well.
It gets a bit sappy towards the end as earnest movies often tend to do, but the trip is worth it, creating a fine piece of wilderness adventure, a genre that has languished in recent years.
“Eight Below” is rated PG for some peril and brief mild language.