In this period of Hollywood remakes, countless comic book films, and indie films, it is rare to see a period piece. The Affleck brothers and Matt Damon have decided to reteam and cover a period of history not often seen in any medium: the early 20th century. Set pre-World War I, this film is a retelling of the race to the South Pole undertaken by two competing international teams of explorers. To better grasp the backstory of the film, it’s necessary to understand the contrasting teams.
The two teams were led by Robert Scott and Roald Amundsen of British and Norwegian descent respectively. Originally, Amundsen’s expedition was to travel to the North Pole, but he had received word that American explorer Robert Peary had reached the pole first. Therefore, he turned his attention to the South Pole. He made use of an Arctic drift ship that took him and his crew to the Bay of Whales. Amundsen’s success was mainly due to the party’s experience with skis and sledges, which enabled them to traverse the icy terrain of Antarctica. They started across the continent in October of 1911 after establishing a resupply base and made it to the pole in December. Scott’s party was five weeks behind them.
Amundsen had already served as second mate on board a ship that journeyed into polar waters, so he was aware of the dangers of the environment and learned more about navigating. Therefore, he was able to take a more direct route than Scott and was used to the harsh conditions.
Scott, meanwhile, had support from the British government and had funding from individuals. However, Scott’s method of travel was different from Amundsen’s. While Amundsen used skis and sledges, Scott decided to use motorized sledges in order to save the strength of his men for as much of the journey as possible. However, due to the poor conditions of the ice, the motorized sledges stopped after only 50 miles’ travel. The men had to hand-carry the rest of their supplies to the next rendezvous point at 80 degrees South latitude, where they waited for the rest of the expedition. Scott’s team made it to the pole 33 days after Amundsen’s team and on the way back died of frostbite and malnutrition.
“Race to the South Pole” is going to detail the two teams and their efforts to reach the South Pole. Casey Affleck, Ben Affleck’s older brother, is set to portray Robert Falcon Scott, the British team’s leader. Currently, no information is available about Amundsen’s possible actor.
The film intends to tell the complete story of the two countries’ race to the South Pole. It will likely begin in medias res, with each team having already established their supply depots on the continent. Because of the priority of casting Robert Scott instead of Amundsen, it’s also likely that the film will focus more on Scott’s team. Amundsen’s team arguably had an easier journey. The themes of humans overcoming adversity and struggling against all odds would be better highlighted in Scott’s journey. They succeeded in their goal, but perished on the way back, only to be found by search parties months later.
A possible subplot could include the geological research conducted by Scott’s team during the rest periods or the efforts of fundraising and public support prior to the expeditions via flashback. Both the United Kingdom and Norway had nationalistic interest in reaching the South Pole first. The British Empire covered a quarter of the known world prior to World War I, so there was public support for reaching the last unexplored area of the world to further cement the Empire’s perceived superiority.
Ben Affleck and Matt Damon have a long and productive film history together. Some of their most well-known films are “Good Will Hunting,” “Chasing Amy, and “Dogma.” They are all high drama, and the two actor-producers should be able to produce the sense of gravity and drama that this film will require to do the historic quest for the pole justice. Because the film is still in the early stages of development, little is known about the rest of the cast. Ben Affleck and Matt Damon would likely be able to get virtually any actor to play Amundsen.
“Race to the South Pole” should be a refreshing change from the usual fare in theaters. With two experienced actor-directors and a compelling story, it could easily merit nominations and awards at the Oscars and usher in a new wave of historical drama.