The subject of the slow Norwegian biopic “Amundsen: The Greatest Expedition” might be polar explorer Roald Amundsen, but its star is frozen water. On clothing and facial hair, from the north pole to the south, the ice whitens the screen. There are all indications that Amundsen’s heart is also carved from it.
Clearly rejecting hagiography, director Espen Sandberg presents Amundsen (Pal Sverre Hagen) as a cold, selfish fanatic with a cruel tendency and preference for married mistresses. Whenever we leave his frosty adventures to spend time with his distant and rather tragic brother Leon (a touching Christian Rubeck), it’s hard not to recognize him as the most human, perhaps the most admirable brother.
Sadly short on excitement and long – well, just long – “Amundsen”, away from blizzards and teeth chattering, is a pompous parade of steep passes and stuffy pieces. Even portraying the 1911 Anglo-Norwegian race to the South Pole (spoiler: Amundsen wins), the film never gets past a heavy crawl, despite a choppy score that tends to give urgency to its hero’s ice caps. A more compelling film could have done without the litany of accomplishments and focused more intensely on Amundsen’s competitiveness (particularly his rivalry with British explorer Robert Falcon Scott), a choice that would have dovetailed more organically with the central performance. of this image.
Instead, “Amundsen” tries unsuccessfully to make us take care of his careless subject, a man who seems to derive little joy from his staggering successes. This leaves us with a psychological slideshow of punishing ambition to which Hagen – master of the sinister gaze and smirk in pursuit of glory – fully commits to. Even if his manager is reluctant to do the same.
Amundsen: the biggest expedition
Unclassified. In Norwegian and English, with subtitles. Duration: 2 hours 5 minutes. Rent or buy from Apple TV, Google Play and other streaming platforms and pay TV operators.