Completing the inaugural slate is the UK premiere of David L. Williams’s comedy, Beyond the Pole, which was adapted from a BBC Radio 4 series and filmed on floating sea ice off the coast of Greenland. Following a pair of amateur explorers as they seek to become the first carbon neutral, vegetarian and organic expedition to reach the North Pole, this mockumentary has an eco agenda. But it’s never tub-thumped, as screenwriter Neil Warhurst (who penned the original sitcom with Paul Barnhill) concentrates on the stresses facing two resolutely ordinary blokes as they stumble towards a place in history and the Guinness Book of Records (providing they don’t find out about an illicit Jammie Dodger).
Sporting t-shirts bearing the slogan, `Don’t be impotent, be important’, Stephen Mangan and Rhys Thomas announce to film-maker Helen Baxendale that they are going to walk to the top of the world in order to highlight the dangers of global warming. They have no experience, no equipment and no idea how they’re going to get there – but they’ll worry about that en route. Despite the skepticism of Mangan’s brother (Patrick Baladi) and the complete indifference of his absentee wife (Zoe Telford), the pair put themselves through an unconventional training program before setting off with veteran cameraman Clive Russell and a CB radio to keep them in contact with Thomas’s pregnant girlfriend Rosie Cavaliero and best buddy Mark Benton, who has set up headquarters in a caravan in a remote field.
Initially, the trio trek through the frozen wilderness without undue incident. But an encounter with a polar bear leaves Mangan and Thomas to fend for themselves, as they compete against cocky gay Norwegians Alexander Skarsgård and Lars Arentz-Hansen to be first to the Pole. However, in doing his bit for the environment, Mangan begins to lose his grip on reality.
Stuart Biddlecombe’s snowscapes are exceptional and Williams adroitly manages to sustain the conceit that the intrepid duo are filming themselves without making camera placement an intrusive issue. Cavaliero and Benton provide solid support, as passions rise within the CB shack (as the former has awkward phone sex with Thomas and the latter develops an unrequited crush). But this is essentially a two-hander, with Thomas’s chirpy optimism (even in the face of excruciating chafing and toe-claiming frostbite) contrasting with Mangan’s droll, but darkening blend of bluffer’s bravura and crippling self-doubt. The frequently improvised humor may be rather patchy, but this is a consistently enjoyable romp, with Mangan’s gradual descent into Arctic madness adding an edge that reinforces the message about the fragility of humanity and the planet.
SOURCE: Empire Online
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